Conservation International and Starbucks Coffee Company are working together to expand their partnership to conservation efforts beyond coffee farms and into surrounding landscapes to address the most pressing environmental issue of our day: climate change.
Since 1998, Starbucks and CI have worked in partnership to develop sustainable coffee growing practices that improve the livelihood of small-scale farmers and conserve natural ecosystems. Starbucks and CI worked together to develop Starbucks’ Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (C.A.F.E. Practices), a set of environmentally, socially and economically responsible coffee buying guidelines. Starbucks has also been a key supporter of CI’s Verde Ventures fund, which provides loans to businesses that can play a critical role in conserving biological diversity, such as sustainable coffee farmers. Starbucks is a Founding Partner of CI’s Team Earth, which is an international collective action campaign to address the most pressing environmental issues facing humanity.
Starbucks current five-year commitment to CI includes an initial investment over the first three years of $7.5 million, the majority of which supports projects in Mexico and Indonesia, addressing local climate change challenges through sustainable land-use and helping communities participate in the growing international carbon market through different mechanisms. Ultimately, Starbucks and CI hope to leverage their global scale to pilot such projects across all coffee-growing regions—Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.
In the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico, forests and coffee agroforests provide important benefits to society. However, the services that these ecosystems provide, such as freshwater filtration, resilience against natural disasters, and carbon sequestration, remain threatened by deforestation. In addition, this region is projected to have serious climate change impacts, including a warmer, drier climate and more extreme weather events. By helping small-scale farmers access voluntary carbon markets, Starbucks and CI aim to both contribute to climate change mitigation and increase the capacity of communities to adapt to an already changing climate, while protecting their supply of high-quality, sustainable coffee .
CI has completed research to understand how Mexican coffee farmers will be affected by changing weather patterns, and to find solutions to help them minimize and adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. This investment will complement other efforts in reforestation, payments for forest conservation and restoration, and will use these research results in a ‘science to action’ framework to implement pilot adaptation projects in the coffee regions of Chiapas.
For example, due to an increasingly dry climate vulnerable to dangerous forest fires, CI is providing technical support to the federal agency that manages the natural protected areas in Mexico to develop participatory forest fire management plans. CI is in the process of working with local stakeholders to scale-up efforts to connect small-scale coffee farmers in 30 communities to voluntary carbon markets. The design phase of this project is nearing conclusion, and project implementation is expected to start in February 2010.
In Sumatra, Indonesia, Starbucks and CI are partnering on a coffee-carbon project that encourages coffee communities living on the forest boundary within the Northern Sumatra Biodiversity Corridor to improve their livelihoods through the production of specialty coffee, which will help to reduce their need to clear land for income generation. Specifically, the project has focused on communities in the high-quality arabica coffee production areas in North Sumatra and the Gayo Highlands in Aceh.
Village-based conservation coffee agreements have already been established in the Dairi district and surveys of communities along the forest line in the Gayo Highlands are currently being concluded to understand the specific drivers of deforestation. These surveys will inform the creation of a package of technical services to be provided to the communities. In return for a formal commitment to respect and monitor the de-facto forest boundary, conservation agreements allow communities to grow their coffee on the current land and allow such communities to receive technical support for coffee growing and processing methods.
CI is currently investigating the feasibility of carbon markets for providing a sustainable funding source for the ongoing provision of these important services.
It is anticipated that the technical support and Conservation Coffee Agreements achieved as a result of Starbucks’ financial support in Indonesia will lead to long-term sustainable financing through a REDD+ mechanism—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation “plus” conservation.
Aside from benefiting the farmer communities and the global climate, these investments in coffee-growing regions will help to ensure the ecological health of the coffee-growing landscape as healthy, species-rich forests that can continue to provide vital services to agriculture.