How sustainable is your cup of coffee?
A huge challenge for sustainable trade is to reconcile the demand for agricultural commodities with the creation and protection of sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection. BirdLife has been considering these issues through research into two key agricultural commodities: coffee and cocoa.
Where and how it is grown has significant impacts on biodiversity. Using traditional methods, coffee and cocoa are grown in the shade of the rainforest canopy, maintaining valuable habitat for wildlife. Shade grown coffee in Central America provides essential wintering ground for many endangered species, including the Cerulean Warbler and Swallow-tailed kite. In fact, traditionally-managed coffee plantations support more species of birds - over 150 - than any other type of agricultural system in the tropics.
In recent years, however, more and more cocoa and coffee plantations have been managed intensively and in full sun. They are established in areas of clear-cut forest or converted shade plantations, and provide very poor habitat for birds and other wildlife. Many of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified by BirdLife as critical for the conservation of the world’s birds are at risk from this. The conversion of forest to coffee plantations in Vietnam, for example, is threatening the Kon Ka Kinh IBA, an important area for a number of globally near-threatened species including the Siamese Fireback and Great Hornbill.
Through research, BirdLife is recommending ways to ensure that the coffee and cocoa we enjoy is more sustainable for poor farmers and biodiversity (see the paper attached). The RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) attended a conference organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) on Sustainability In the Coffee Sector (Geneva, 8–9 December 2003). This explored options for international action and the possibility of a partnership to work towards sustainability throughout the coffee sector.
SalvaNATURA, the BirdLife partner in El Salvador, is also engaged in this initiative. SalvaNATURA operates a certification programme for coffee grown under shade conditions that promote biodiversity. In the UK, you can support their work directly through purchasing coffee marked with the green tree frog ‘Rainforest Alliance Certified’ label. In the US, National Audubon markets its own brand of wildlife friendly, shade grown coffee, which can be purchased online from their web site.
Next Page » The Cancún WTO Ministerial Conference