Coffee Forests – Farms and Wildlife Havens in One

05 May

You might wonder where I got this idea from. How did I pick wildlife and land use? Well part of it came from my love of wildlife, which lead to me to be an Animal Sciences major at the University of Maryland. Animal Sciences majors are technically students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  It seemed like a waste to spend so much time in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and never use any of my “Ag knowledge.” So, land use and wildlife management is a logical interestion. But the truth is that my interest in these fields came from reading articles about people sucessfully growing coffee beans in the rain forest without creating lasting damage to the rain forest.

In the 1970s people were cutting down entire sections of rain forest to make room for rows and rows of coffee plants. These coffee plants were receiving regular chemical applications. The only species growing on these farms was coffee. These farms are classified as monocultures. The result of monocultures is a decrease in wildlife, increase in erosion and agrochemicals running off into near by streams. Also, cutting down large chunks of the rain forest disrupted migratory patterns of the wildlife, which in turn results in changes breeding habits. Animals were no longer welcome on the land because they damaged the crops and reduced yields, which results in lower profits for the farmers.

Then the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) was created. SAN is a certification given to coffee beans stating to consumers that the beans are grown on farms that are also wildlife safe havens. Farms certified by SAN have biodiversity, protected watersheds and provide a safe haven for wildlife passing through. These farms are called “coffee forests” and also provide firewood, construction materials, medicinal plants, fruits, flowers, honey and other goods.

According to an article in The Atlantic Monthly, farmers that cut down the rain forest canopy (sun farmers) produce more coffee beans per square hectare than farmers that grow coffee beans in coffee forests. However, because the cost of the chemical inputs, for sun farmers is so high their profit from the coffee beans is equal to the profit the coffee forest farmer receives.

This is a great example of how wildlife and agriculture can co-exist in a way that is not detrimental to either party.

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Posted by on May 5, 2009 in Sustainable Agriculture


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