« The hostility facing Carlos Slim | Main | Vigilance over cholera in Mexico »

05/21/2013

A lack of diversity on the coffee farms

IMG_5276
I toured several coffee-growing cooperatives in Guatemala today, and one of the surprises I encountered was the prevalence of a certain species of tree used for shade-grown coffee.

It used to be in decades past that shade-grown coffee was considered better for the environment. Farmers used numerous kinds of trees to cast shade, providing some diversity. But everywhere I went today, there was just one kind of tree, a silky oak, an import from Australia. It’s been in Guatemala for decades. It's not a real oak, by the way, but more like a eucalyptus.

You can see it in the background in the photo above, taken at the San Pedrano Cooperative near Esquintla.

The silky oak can be shaped with pruning, and is highly frost resistant, two qualities that coffee farmers like. Other trees, like the endemic Inga, can die in a hard frost. So the silky oak has taken over at some coffee farms.

One of the benefits of shade-grown coffee disappears if the trees providing the shade are a monoculture. Juan Carlos Toledo, an agent with the Federation of Coffee-growing Agricultural Cooperatives of Guatemala, said some U.S.-based specialty coffee buyers were pressuring Guatemalan growers to diversify their trees to replicate natural forest. 

I’ll sip to that.

I've just come across what looks like a Guatemalan coffee industry website that indicates the silky oak, also known as by its Latin name as Gravilea Robusta, is used on only 22 percent of coffee farms in the nation. If still up to date, that would be good news. 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c64169e20191025c98ff970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A lack of diversity on the coffee farms:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

pink schnoid

did those Kaibiles guys kidnap you, Tim?....did you find B Traven?...

pink schnoid

let me cross the river and rest in the shade

The comments to this entry are closed.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

Send a story suggestion or news tip.

Read Tim's stories at news.mcclatchy.com.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @timjohnson4

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


THIS MONTH

    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3 4 5
    6 7 8 9 10 11 12
    13 14 15 16 17 18 19
    20 21 22 23 24 25 26
    27 28 29 30 31