Climate Change & Coffee Cultivation - Micro & Macro Climatic Changes

 

Until now we saw how a story is introduced to us, we understand how blurry our eyes and how sandy our paths have been with acknowledging impact. That is obviously a far cry from addressing the same impact of cumulated behaviours and disdain. Keen observations about little details give an idea or two, sometimes. Changes are not always measurable, and for that reason, we have gone to root to ask the questions that matter.

Akarsha is a 5th generation coffee grower, a wildlife conversationalist and according to us an amazing human/genius. His constant efforts in recalibrating his processes to optimise the amount of energy he spends and to minimise waste help him get to the high standards he sets for himself. In our conversation with him, he talks about how scales lie more often than not and how he's trying to spread his knowledge with as many people as possible.

As far as he remembers, coffee encroachment has seen a constant uptrend which to his dismay doesn't seem to end anytime soon. This causes horizontal coffee cultivation, which only adds to the preexisting problem of deforestation. One thing coffee farmers know those coffee drinkers don't is how rising temperatures are slowly affecting the plant. The effects are a noticeable decrease in the size of fruit and reduced quality in the beans that become the heart of the beverage we love.

The problem is that the people who grow coffee are the only ones aware. When a coffee plant bears fruit, it also bears floaters, they can be loosely be described as a second quality fruit, with time the ratio of fruit to floater has slowly seen a shift towards floaters. Climate change isn't just about the atmosphere the plant grows in, it's also about how much water the plant gets. It's rather ignorant to assume that high rainfall is high yield, too much of anything is bad, and here it causes a fungal infection to interfere with harvesting. Untimely rains cause the plant to take a physiological toll thereby forcing the buds to blossom and lack of rainfall causes substandard fruit altogether. Lack of documentation and data collection has resulted in falling bean quality go rather unnoticed.

On a small scale, inexperience always leads to one disaster after another. Shortsightedness and greed take charge to rather ruin the most valuable resource the farmer has, soil. Acknowledging and accepting the responsibility for a mistake would seem painful at the beginning, but it's the point where growth becomes an ideology and not a process. At a micro level, human interventions have a telling effect in the long run, sometimes it is chopping off trees and sometimes it is the removal of bushes to accommodate more coffee plants. These small changes become much bigger when there's a loss of topsoil due to soil erosion. Coffee needs to cross-pollinate, the green cover functions as a local ambassador for biodiversity at that small level.

Maintaining harmony is at the core of all life, taking the space we need rather than taking the space we want is the direction we should be looking at as farmers and as people. That's the food for thought today.

 

- Mani Varna from Wobh

Climate Change & Coffee Cultivation - Micro & Macro Climatic Changes