Climate Resilience in Coffee

Speakers: Mark Lundy, CIAT; Laurence Jassogne, IITA; Britta Deutsch, HRNS Africa

Building coffee growing communities that are resilient to climate change and can sell into stable, resilience value chains was the focus of this deep dive session.

Mark Lundy (CIAT and Laurence Jassogne (IITA) from the CGIAR global program Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) brought together findings in different coffee origins to describe the nature and extent of climate risk as well as the process to identify action and investment plans. Britta Deutsch from Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung Africa (HRNS) shared the results of the programs they run with coffee farmers on climate adaptation, conservation agriculture, organizational strengthening and farming as a business.

Session participants, ranging from coffee buyers to NGOs to farmer organizations, contributed their experience of climate change and the particular challenges of accessing the most credible information in formats that are actionable – whether that be by farmers, traders or government entities and then marshaling the sufficient resources to act.

What is the extent and nature of climate risk to coffee growers? What are the tools available to understand the risks in specific geographies?  

Globally, CIAT’s climate models show significant changes in suitability for coffee production by 2050. The map below below shows yellow, orange and red zones with increasingly significant and negative changes in suitability. There are also a number of zones in green and blue that will gain suitability, many of which are currently home to protected areas or standing forests.

Lundy shared results for Tanzania that show that the change in suitability as climate change occurs is site-specific. There will be areas that become unsuitable for coffee (Kagera, Mara and Kigoma). There will be areas with a slight loss in suitability for coffee (Arusha, Iringa), but may remain suitable if farmers adapt their agronomic management to the new conditions the area will experience. CIAT has calculated that every 1°C increase in temperature reduces coffee yields by 137 kg/ha.

Without coordinated action by farmers, governments and buyers, we can expect:

  • Less area for coffee production, lower production of Arabica
  • Higher prices
  • Lower quality
  • Coffee migrating up hillsides
  • …and more Robusta

Lundy emphasized these actions:

  • Strengthen coffee institutions at origin
  • Promote knowledge exchange and sharing
  • Develop affordable coffee insurance schemes for climate risk
  • Manage shade for variable rainfall and extreme temperatures.
  • Support producer organizations to confront increased market risk related to greater variability of coffee production
  • Improve soil management and soil health
  • Reforest degraded and risk prone sites

From scary maps to action: What are the strategies being implemented by farmers, NGOs and companies to address climate change and build household and farm resilience?

Britta Deusch shared HRNS’ work in Tanzania to bolster coffee growers capacity to identify climate impacts and adapt to them. Climate adaptation is a core pillar of their approach to promote sustainable use of resources along with improving farmers’ competitiveness and empowerment through farmer organizations. Their agronomy work with farmers includes both coffee and food crops, focusing on conservation agricultural practices, increased productivity and climate resilience. HRNS combines climate science with farmer know-how to identify practical solutions for drought, decreased rainfall, heat and longer dry seasons.

And they are seeing success – despite impacts from climate change, yields of clean coffee per ha on the HRNS program farms have more than doubled since 2011 and maize yields have tripled.

Laurence Jassogne (IITA) shared an example of their research with coffee farmers conducted in the Mt. Elgon region of Uganda. IITA combines the CIAT modeling approach with an on-the-ground engagement process with farmers to identify which practices are needed for the particular climate changes predicted, and then which ones will deliver the most return on the farmers’ investment of cash and labor. They have developed an approach to farmer segmentation based on attitudinal factors to understand how different kinds of farmers view these investments and practices. This is then the foundation of tailored stepwise investment strategies that are ideally supported by the farmers, their organization and supply chain partners to implement.

How can private, public and research sector coordinate more closely?

The good news is that there is considerable concern and momentum in the coffee sector to understand and tackle this threat. CIAT, IITA and HRNS are leading a global initiative on Climate Smart Coffee to work with the coffee sector to produce better diagnostics to adapt to these risks, and transform agriculture where coffee may no longer be viable in the future.

The HRNS-led coffee & climate initiative already has many of the large roasters and trading companies engaged and can be better used as an existing platform to channel targeted analytics on climate change to both private and public decisionmakers.

IITA and Sustainable Food Lab have been engaging with companies to understand how they are currently diagnosing and addressing climate risk in their supply chains. IITA’s research has identified the following needs:

To help farmers:

  • Simple, uniform messages.
  • Specific practices to address specific problems (also to address currently observed CC impacts).

For private sector actors:

  • Updated information in short info briefs, presentations, videos, etc.
  • Focusing more on the short-term, but still need to keep awareness raising about the long-term implications of Climate Change (without scaremongering).

The speakers in this session urged participants to consider the specific impacts of climate change in their sphere of operations and extended a broad invitation to partner to capitalize on existing knowledge and tools. Links to ongoing work can be found here:

Coffee & climate initiative

CIAT blog

Learning Community for Climate Smart Agriculture

Sustainable Food Lab

Other Articles

Sustainable Food Lab

Partner With Us

As a partner with Sustainable Food Lab, you will be part of a network of global thought leaders from diverse organizations committed to making impactful changes in the food system.
Learn more

Sustainable Food Lab Newsletter

Get the latest news and updates when you subscribe to the Sustainable Food Lab Newsletter.

Newsletter Form

We promise not to spam, ever.