• back

  • Helping producers prepare

    Potential strategies to make coffee producers better prepared.

    Detailed monitoring of changes in climate and production. This would allow the mapping of areas prone to the spread of specific pests according to the likely impact of climate change. This would assist in determining which crops are best produced where and could help ensure that government guidance and assistance are correctly targeted.

    Mapping of likely climate change within each coffee region. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) assists least developed countries to identify their immediate priorities for adaptation options. Over 40 countries have received assistance to prepare their National Adaptation Programmes of Action and many have already submitted their action plans. See a list of proposed project details and plans at http://unfccc.int/national_reports/napa/items/2719.php.

    Migration of production - latitudinal and altitudinal. Latitudinal migration could be northwards or southwards in search of more appropriate climatic conditions, for example a southward shift in Brazil to less frost prone areas. However, widespread latitudinal changes will be difficult given the susceptibility of both arabica and robusta to changes in the intensity and availability of sunlight that impact on the photosynthesis process. Effects range from a noticeable decrease of the growth phase to an inhibition of flower development. Altitudinal migration would move production to areas of higher altitude where the climate will become more suitable. After all, coffee does grow in areas outside the 'normal' tropical distribution range of coffee cultivation (Nepal and China's Yunnan province). Nevertheless, both movements in geographical location and in altitude may be restricted, for example by the potential impact on quality.

    Estimating the potential impact of climate change on coffee quality. Higher temperatures mean coffee will ripen more quickly, leading to a fall in quality. This means areas currently favourable for coffee production may no longer be so in 20 years, and others currently too cold may become suitable. But this dislocation of existing areas to new ones is highly problematic, given the increasing competition for fertile land across all regions.

    Devising strategies to diversify out of coffee where necessary. To date diversification has proven particularly challenging, mainly because of the lack of adequate substitute crops. However, with increasing pressure on food crops land currently used for coffee may become subject to competition from (more) profitable crops.

    Evaluating available adaptation techniques, such as shade management systems. Although originally a shade tree, coffee also prospers without shade in zones with adequate climate and soils. However, shade management is highly advisable when coffee is grown in less desirable areas, or in areas that will become affected by climate change. The main effects are decreasing air temperatures (as much as 3° - 4° C), decreasing wind speeds and increasing air humidity. Shading also helps avoid large reductions in night temperatures at high elevations, or in high latitudes such as Parana State in Brazil.

    High-density planting, vegetated soils and irrigation. All these aim at maintaining and/or increasing organic matter and soil water retention capacity, thereby enhancing the viability of cultivation under adverse climatic conditions.

    Genetic breeding. The main objectives under this concept are the development of higher yields, better quality and strength, and longevity. However, it is equally important that genetic improvement based on selective breeding contributes to the long-term sustainability of coffee cultivation in lands potentially affected by climate change. Research on varieties that are less water demanding is equally important. Some research has focused on developing varieties that could cope with higher temperatures and remain highly productive at the same time.