When we think about ‘endangered species’ maybe the first thing that comes in to our minds are wild lions in Africa, or large whales in the sea. And although this is also a huge issue, few times we think about everyday species that can be found at the closest retail store, or literally at any food corner in the city. Times are changing quickly, climate change and massive extinction are happening right now, and yes, coffee is at risk of disappearing too!
The coffee plants needs very specific environmental conditions to thrive; The finest coffee variety named “Arabica” needs a temperate tropical weather at high elevations, good amounts of rain, a nutrient rich soil, and a great diversity of trees and plants, that can provide shadow, nutrients and protection to the coffee plants.
The typical place to grow coffee is the rainforest, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world! Excessive logging that leads to deforestation, and climate changes that provoke more dry seasons and fires, are some of the factors that devastates the rainforests, and consequently, coffee production.
For example, just in Mexico, since the year 2012 a plague called rust infested the plants generating a huge loss of the coffee production. Up to 50% of the national harvest was lost from 2012 to 2016 (Henderson, 2019). The most alarming part of this, is that the rust plague is definitely intensifying in the Latin American region due to the rise in temperatures and precipitations caused by climate change (Ibidem).
In addition, this plague event in Mexico combined with poor public support to the small farmers, unfortunately caused that a huge part of them decided to leave coffee cultivation for good, sold their lands and/or migrated towards the industrial North of the American continent.
Just like us human beings have created environmental chaos, we do have the power to generate resilient and sustainable solutions to face it. Although there are diverse ways of contribution, each individual or potential consumer, the producers, buyers, and the governments can all contribute in a positive way to protect coffee from extinction.
The wide range of solutions to protect coffee from extinction might become a topic for the next article. But I would like to conclude this one by mentioning that consuming coffee from ethical trade, and agro-ecological methods is crucial for coffee survival, whether they posses a certification label or not, it is important to inform ourselves about the coffee we are drinking!
When it comes to the buyers responsibility, they have the same obligation as the consumers: Ethical sourcing with the farmers and assurance of agro-ecological methods before their purchase.
Finally, regarding the government’s responsibility, I am a firm believer that all the States must develop an environmental and agrarian policy that actively supports sustainability and environmental protection. So, a little (lot) of help from the governments should be a must in the protection of any endangered species, including coffee.
- Margie Maria M. Gonzalez. Culture and sustainability: Lessons from Tosepan Titataniske from Cuetzalan, Mexico (Master’s thesis), 2018, Norwegian University of Life-Sciences.
- Thomas Paul Henderson, “Rust and the future of coffee in Chiapas” (spanish article). Revista Mexicana de Sociología, available in: http://mexicanadesociologia.unam.mx/index.php/v81n2/323-v81n2a6
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[…] coffee’s history in Mexico is not over yet! The effects of climate change are already being notorious in the country; Continuous drought and related pests such as rust are really endangering coffee’s entire […]