The future of coffee is interlinked to a healthy environment. With climate change posing a serious threat there would sooner be a scarcity of land with the optimum climate and an increased risk of pests and diseases. Changes in weather patterns can also damage and delayed harvests.
Moreover, there are several environmental issues linked to coffee products such as water pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, and reduced biodiversity, among others. But several easy-to-implement steps can be adopted by coffee farmers to minimize their impact on the environment and also have a positive impact on the quality of coffee.
Here are some eco-friendly practices that are recommended by our agronomists and experienced farmer partners to improve the quality of coffee.
Coffee farms with shade trees and forests in the vicinity tend to have far more wildlife, from insects to monkeys which can benefit coffee crops. For instance, agro-forestry is often associated with the rise in spider population. Spiders are the natural predator of the coffee leaf minor, a pest that eats coffee leaves. Evidence also points that outbreak of the pest is controlled by the removal of shade trees.
The subsequent defoliation from these attacks considerably reduces both yield and quality. This is because the plant is unable to convert sunlight into energy using photosynthesis.
In short, agroforestry can be beneficial by offering pests protection and provide much-needed nutrients to the soil. It also helps in the prevention of soil erosion and provides supplementary income for producers.
2. Water Conservation & Treatment
Coffee Processing is a water-intensive process much of which comes out as contaminated water. This water contains many toxic chemicals like tannins phenolic and alkaloids which inhibit biological degradation. This is in turn threatens marine life and poses a health risk to local communities.
Hence it is important to reuse and conserve water, but this should be done after it is treated to remove the organic contaminants. There are wet-mill machine manufacturers with water treatment capabilities. Closed filtration systems can be built on medium-sized farms. A post-treatment chemical analysis will help determine if the water is good for reuse.
3. Integrated Pest & Disease Management
Apart from the wastewater, heavy fertilizers also contribute to water pollution and destroy important microorganisms within the soil. But without fertilizers, coffee is vulnerable to pests and diseases. The balance is difficult to strike for coffee producers.
At Kerchanshe’s numerous farms integrated pest and disease management is adopted to ensure quality while respecting the environment. Pests and diseases are kept under control using multiple techniques (rather than completely eradicating them). This heavily relies on using preventative practices, monitoring, traps, natural pesticides along the responsible use of synthetic pesticides.
4. Erosive Process Control
Newly planted coffee trees are particularly vulnerable to soil erosion and wind. This is because the plants do not have fully developed roots and foliage that would protect them from the elements. Agroforestry helps, but the saplings do not always need big, towering plants to protect them. Hence signal grasses are grown between the lines of coffee from soil erosion.
5. Ecosystem Diversification
It is known that a diverse ecosystem support growth of healthy coffee trees. The presence of bees is beneficial to both environment and the quality of coffee. Moreover, studies have shown that the presence of bees indicated a higher yield up to 20-25% despite Arabica being self-pollinating.
Kerchanshe Trading through its farmer outreach programs encourages honey production which translates to higher yield as well as an additional income to farmers.
It is often overlooked that the quality of coffee and environmental sustainability is interrelated and complementary. Plant biodiversity enhances soil structure and quality, beekeeping boosts pollination, and therefore plant yield and agro-forestry act as a barrier against pests. Although the above initiatives are out of bounds for many smallholder producers, Kerchanshe understands that success is not restricted to providing high-quality coffee, but also ensuring the best interest of our farmers while respecting environmental sustainability.