A new study indicates that climate change could devastate coffee production in Brazil, but also offers ideas on how to save 75% of it. We definitely need to take heed, because I am an evil monster that the Avengers may need to subdue if I don’t have my morning coffee. Silliness aside, this new study provides both a problem and a solution.
The study’s models show that Brazil’s southeastern mountain areas of Matas de Minas Gerais, as well as Montanhas, do Espírito Santo, will be a lot warmer and drier in 2050. These areas produce over 20% of Brazil’s Arabica coffee. Researchers predict that the area’s average temperature will increase by 1.7 degrees Celsius and that the annual precipitation will decrease to 1,199 millimeters from the current 1,257 millimeters. Combined, this will mean a 60% reduction in the area that is prime for coffee production. This could severely impact thousands of livelihoods in a negative way.
There are around 25 million smallholder coffee farmers globally and it is estimated that 100 million livelihoods in Africa, Mesoamerica, and South America depend on coffee production. “Since coffee production is at the heart of social, economic and cultural development in the region, smallholder farmers, government, NGOs, academia, and policymakers should join forces to implement agroforestry systems in the region to counteract the threat posed by climate change and safeguard the future of the coffee production in the Southeast Mountains,” the study authors said.
One solution to this issue is agroforestry, which is simply a nice word to describe an agriculture land management system in which trees are planted alongside crops to control the daily temperature. A shade level of 50% has the chance of lowering daily temperatures by 2–3 degrees Celsius. The study found that agroforestry systems could help maintain around 75% of the area that is currently suitable for coffee production.
The study authors noted that, “In areas between 600 and 800 meters, agroforestry systems have the potential to increase coffee suitability. In areas between 800 and 1,200 meters, agroforestry systems with 50% shade cover are expected to have a similar positive effect but can also have negative effects.” The study also found that if agroforestry isn’t implemented, regions in altitudes between 800 to 1,200 meters will still be ideal for coffee production. However, the areas between 600 and 800 meters that will endure losses. An upside is that areas between 1,200 and 1,800 meters could have increased suitability for coffee production. So, it may not be as dire as it seems at first glance.
It is my opinion that coffee saves lives. I often joke with friends about this, but in reality, many depend on coffee. However, the livelihoods of coffee farmers and their families as well as their overall communities all depend on the coffee industry the most to survive. This is a problem that many actors will have to agree to solve — governments, the owners of the land, and those who want to help by planting trees. Sure, there are initiatives such as Team Trees that are encouraging you to plant a tree for only $1, but this effort will still need global cooperation — not just support. We’ll see how it develops in the coming years.