Along the slopes of the rugged Sierra Madre Mountains in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico, the coffee harvest is under way – and helping protect the environment.
While regular production practices can be detrimental to the environment, several grower organizations are protecting biologically rich land by cultivating coffee in a sustainable and responsible manner. A new Verde Ventures’ partner—Unión de Ejidos Profesor Otilio Montaño (UDEPOM)—is doing exactly that.
Verde Ventures recently gave a loan to this coffee-growing cooperative near the Sierra Madre to help finance this year’s harvest as part of a 3-year line of credit. The new investment is part of the fund’s growing coffee portfolio supported by Starbucks Coffee Company. More than growing and harvesting Fair Trade and organic certified coffee, UDEPOM will also help restore and protect biologically rich land adjacent to the farms in the Mesoamerica biodiversity hotspot.
UDEPOM coffee farmers will help in the reforestation and protection of areas surrounding the Pico de Loro El Paistal and El Tacana biosphere reserves, where the altitude rises from 450 meters on the Pacific side to as high as 2,750 meters toward Pico el Loro. The geography makes for great diversity in the plants, animals, terrain and climatic conditions.
In addition to helping conserve important habitat for threatened species, UDEPOM runs training and education programs for its members focused on environmentally friendly and sustainable agricultural practices. The cooperative is developing a program of community-run tree nurseries to renew the coffee plantations and plant 27,619 new trees to provide shade for the coffee trees. This program will re-introduce native fruit trees and proven soil conservation practices to help repair the damage caused by Hurricane Stan in 2005.
Through the encouraged use of improved farming techniques, UDEPOM farm managers also enhance habitat protection for unique birds, reptiles, insects and other species. Additionally, they are advancing social change as they help further the education of women to play a larger role in the local business, both in coffee and in the production and marketing of other native plants that offer health benefits.