On the sidelines of a sustainable coffee meeting in Central Aceh some time ago, a farmer asked me: “What can we do to restore the temperature and climate that have changed? It used to be so cold that at night we slept with a jacket on under our thick blanket. Now, we are too hot for even our blankets.”
Another participant asked: “Before, our coffee was safe from pests and diseases, but that is no longer true. Are pests and diseases related to climate change?”
Over the years, farmers have continually asked me questions like these. In the past, a stable climate in Sumatra minimized instances of pests and diseases, helped regulate the rainy season and made it easier to predict fertilization periods for coffee. Sumatra has long been recognized as one of the best coffee-growing geographies in the world. However, climate change has caused significant changes in both coffee production and quality over the last 10-15 years in Indonesia.
Rising temperatures have changed local conditions and made the area less suitable for growing coffee. Pest and disease attacks on coffee plants and an increase in extreme weather events has become a real problem on coffee plantations and other agricultural lands. For example, as temperatures increase, a beetle called the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei) is expanding into higher altitudes and posing a growing threat to coffee crops. Many farmers have experienced firsthand how these and other changes can disrupt their livelihoods.
Since 2008, CI and Starbucks have developed and replicated a sustainable coffee management project in northern Sumatra. The main objective of this program is to increase the capacity of coffee farmers to better respond to the effects of climate change, optimize coffee production and increase household income. In turn, the farmers are working to reduce forest destruction and improve land management.
Read the rest of this article on CI's blog: http://blog.conservation.org/2012/07/adapting-coffee-to-a-changing-climate-in-sumatra/