Coping with climate change

Saturday May 11 2019

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

Most of the ideas in today’s column have been derived from a Technoserve blog article titled: “How to Help Coffee Farmers Manage Climate Change Threats.”

The article contains encouraging comments from two CEOs of two organisations, Will Warshauer of Technoserve and Jean-Marc Duvoisn of Nesspresso, a premium coffee company.

Given the heavy dependence of our economy on coffee it is important that we pay some attention to what colleagues higher up in the coffee value chain are saying regarding the steps our coffee farmers can take to resist global warming threats.

Duvoisn is quoted as saying, “Scientific reports forecast that by 2050, climate change could reduce the global area suitable for coffee production by up to 50 per cent.” This must be worrying to the farmers who could lose their crop which is also their source of income.

“Climate Change is a real and serious threat; from erratic temperature changes that can ruin entire harvests, to unpredictable rains that can wipe out whole landscapes,” he further said.

Duvoisn believes that production of high quality coffee is important for building stronger resistance to global warming. High quality coffee attracts high prices and makes coffee farming sustainable because the farmers take bigger interest in the crop.

“It means consumers continue to enjoy coffee and it gives farmers an opportunity to build their own sustainable futures,” he said.
Warshauer emphasised the importance of planting shade trees in the coffee gardens. He also highlighted the role trees play in fighting soil erosion.

“Trees improve soil nutrients, and increase carbon absorption from the atmosphere,” he said.
“Better mulching and pruning techniques – as well as integrated pest and disease management – can often mean the difference between a crop that survives erratic weather and a crop that does not.”
Farmers will need to have their soil regularly tested to find out what nutrients are lacking so that they can be supplied.

The two organisations have formed a partnership and are running a programme to provide training and expert advice such as soil analysis, landscape management, book-keeping, forming cooperatives and introducing them to insurance in case of unexpected weather vagaries.