• Voluntary market projects*


    Coffee farms generally and smallholdings especially do not contribute greatly to GHG emissions but this is not to say that growers should not engage in mitigation measures, i.e. reduce their carbon footprint. However, coffee farms in many if not most countries often also offer potential to increase their tree cover, either through the planting of (more) shade trees or by extending the total forest cover on a farm or in a demarcated area. Provided this is an additional activity, i.e. it would not happen without the incentive of earning carbon credits, such plantings can generate marketable carbon credits through the carbon sequestration process that the additional trees generate. **

    Environmental services. A particularly interesting discussion, potentially of great importance for the coffee sector, is whether maintaining shaded coffee farms, i.e. conserve existing shade trees and their carbon stocks, should count towards earning carbon credits. After all, coffee farms under shade conserve more carbon than coffee grown in direct sunlight but at the cost of lower yields. There is therefore potentially an opportunity cost to adopting such conservation measures over sun grown coffee. Although in some cases this can be compensated for if linked to premium prices like for organic, the lack of incentives for farmers to provide environmental services in this way is evident. Furthermore, should farmers not be rewarded for conserving existing shade grown coffee as is proposed for forests under REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)?

    The current requirement that farmers growing shade coffee plant additional trees before they may qualify for any carbon credits in effect means that the environmental services they already provide are being ignored.

    As of end 2009 we are not yet aware of any coffee projects that already generate marketable carbon credits, but there are a number of ongoing projects that are leading the way. For example:

    • CATIE, the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza in Costa Rica in 2004-2006 developed a technical manual on how to estimate carbon - Carbon Capture and Development of Environmental Markets for Indigenous Cocoa Farms and Other Agroforestry Systems. For more information contact Eduardo Somarriba at esomarri@catie.ac.cr.
    • CATIE is also working with the Costa Rican Fondo Nacional de Financiamiento Forestal (FONAFIFO) on a Payment for Environmental Services Scheme to establish criteria for environmental payments to shaded coffee farms. For more information on this contact Elias de Melo at eliasdem@catie.ac.cr or Jeremy Haggar at jhaggar@catie.ac.cr.
    • The Rainforest Alliance, with funding from the International Finance Corporation, completed a two year project (2008/2009) entitled 'Creating and testing a credible carbon monitoring methodology for Coffee Farms' with the objective to combat climate change while promoting reforestation; enable farmers to sell the carbon these incremental trees take out of the atmosphere; avoid the high transaction costs usually associated with carbon offset projects; and develop methodology that can be used in other regions and sectors. A project outline is available at http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/climate.cfm?id=carbon_coffee ***
    • The same Rainforest Alliance project produced a manual entitled 'Guidance on Coffee Carbon Development using the simplified Agroforestry Methodology'. This comprehensive Guide deals with the entire project sequence, from identification to marketing carbon credits In other words, a complete review of carbon project development. Download the complete Guide (in English or in Spanish) from http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/climate/documents/coffee_carbon_guidance.pdf 
    • Adaptation for smallholders to Climate Change is a public-private partnership project between Cafédirect plc and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) that aims to strengthen coffee and tea smallholders' capacities to adapt to climate change and enhance their access to respective financing mechanisms. Implementation commenced in 2009 with pilot producer groups in Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico and Kenya. The overall objective is to disseminate the results and lessons learned internationally and to scale up to a much wider footprint with more international partners. The adaptation strategy of the Peruvian pilot group focuses around an afforestation carbon project that, although located in a higher water catchment area, is providing adaptation effects in the lower coffee producing regions. For details including a complete set of project documents, project fact sheets and relevant background presentations visit http://www.adapcc.org/en/downloads.htm 
    • The World Bank's BioCarbon Fund. Precisely because of the difficulties many developing countries face to participate in the Clean Development Mechanism - CDM, the BioCarbon Fund provides carbon finance for projects that sequester or conserve GHG in forests, agro- and other ecosystems. Visit http://go.worldbank.org/IVUUKC9210. Currently the fund supports approx. 25 Reforestation Projects, three REDD Projects (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) in Colombia, Honduras and Madagascar - details are provided on the website - and is embarking on Soil Carbon Pilot projects. The BioCarbon fund is also working with Kenya's Green Belt Movement (GBM) on the reforestation of degraded land. This pilot project will pay local communities and provide them with the technology and knowledge to reforest these lands and manage the new forest. Carbon payments will allow GBM to expand this technique and its benefits to additional areas. ****

    All the foregoing suggests that more detailed information and actual examples on how coffee growers could progress into the voluntary carbon market system will become available during 2010 or, latest, 2011.

    * It is important to note that credible reporting and verification of carbon credits requires that one 'carbon credit unit' is always the same, regardless of where or how it was produced. To be credible a project therefore needs to be based on accepted standards and procedures, including transparent accreditation, validation and verification. It needs to be properly structured and adequate records must be kept.
    For more on this visit http://www.adapcc.org/download/LPedroni-Carbon-Credits.pdf

    ** An interesting aspect of forestry projects is that plantings etc. can be monitored through satellite imagery, e.g. through GoogleMaps.

    *** See also The Global Forest and Trade Network - http://gftn.panda.org. GFTN is a World Wildlife Organization initiative and offers information, contacts and tools in respect of sustainable forest management and forest certification.

    **** Registering with the BioCarbon Fund website gives access to a number of documents, including reports on the state of the carbon markets (both CDM and Voluntary).

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