Drink Coffee Save the Rainforest

Well, it is not quite that easy.  Make sure you are drinking shade-grown coffee.  Like me, you probably pass the shade-grown variety by because it runs a few dollars higher than the other stuff.  Why pay more for a plant grown under another tree?  Shade-grown is worth a second look and even a little more pocket change than your usual Cup o’ Joe.  With the threat of climate change, habitat destruction, and loss of biodiversity, many of the products we take for granted today may end up in serious decline, coffee included.

How can we help ensure our morning rituals do not disappear along with the world’s rainforests?  Drink shade-grown.  As opposed to slash and burn techniques, that clear the land, shade-grown protects biodiversity of flora and fauna.  In fact the original forest can be left intact.  The coffee is planted beneath the existing trees or grown in conjunction with another crop which shades the coffee bush.  Thus, the farmer can grow multiple crops on the same plot of land which increases his yield.  If one crop fails the farmer has a backup.  Plant diversity is better for the land because each plant removes and replenishes different nutrients so the soil is not stripped and does not have to lay fallow.  Shade-grown provides a better income for the farmer with incentive for them to preserve the rainforest.  A social and environmental win!

As temperatures continue to rise due to global warming, our food crops are at risk.  This is evident in our nation’s corn crops that have been destroyed by drought and heat.  As climate change increases, crops are vulnerable to heat, intensified storms, soil erosion and drought.  A shade-grown coffee bush is better protected from the elements due to the canopy above which acts as a buffer.

Another term that you may have noticed is ‘bird-friendly.’  As one would assume, in tropical areas most of the bird species have evolved to live in the forest.  When the forest is lost they migrate elsewhere and new species move in.  The new species tend to be grain and seed feeders which can be detrimental to crops and are considered pests by farmers.  However, native birds provide the farmer with a great service since most of these species are either insect eaters (control pests), fruit eaters (disperse seed), or nectar eaters (pollinate).

Another perk is that shade-grown coffee uses few to no pesticides.  Keep in mind that even if you do not see ‘certified organic’ on the package it probably is organic.  Much of the coffee grown in the world comes from small family farms.  The farmers usually cannot afford the thousands of dollars to get certified, but they also keep costs down by not buying pesticides.



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