According to a recent report from World Coffee Research, by 2050 the demand for coffee will have doubled, but the land suited to growing it will have halved.
Through a combination of higher temperatures, decreasing rainfall and subsequent waves of pests and disease, the effects of climate change are already beginning to bite. In Ethiopia alone, an estimated 39–59% of the growing area could soon become unsuitable for coffee farming.
Inevitably, the people that will be hit the hardest are the communities who farm our coffee. As large coffee brands and importers select coffee from less effected and more reliable regions, their current coffee growers risk losing their livelihoods as a result.
What can be done to help protect coffee production?
Well, aside from the obvious issue of reducing the world’s carbon emissions, there are a few more localised things that can be done to support the industry.
Primarily, ensuring farmers are paid fairly and supported goes some way towards protecting against the price variation caused by damaged crops. In a recent report by the Guardian, Hugo Villela, regional agribusiness specialist at Oikocredit, pointed out:
‘Fairtrade is one solution, as the certification provides a minimum price which buffers some of the effects of price volatility caused by the impact of weather on crop supply.’
Equally, some have pointed out that helping farmers to adapt to changing conditions with new methods and technology could increase resilience. With the right collaboration from exporters, methods like irrigation, shade management and using genetically resistant coffee species could help protect production levels.
What can be done on the consumption side of the coffee industry?
Again, choosing Fairtrade and ethically sourced beans is one way of making sure that coffee growing communities receive the support they deserve.
Now more than ever, exploitative coffee practices will have a detrimental effect on coffee producing countries, and Fairtrade regulation is increasingly necessary in order to support farmers and their families.
Equally, trying to counter the disposable culture of our coffee consumption will help (even in a small way) to reduce the carbon footprint of our intake. Investing in a keep cup or choosing renewable packaging limits the amount of waste packaging that we’ve become accustomed to throwing away each day.
At The Barista we use Vegware™ wherever possible. Not only is Vegware™ packaging made from recycled materials, but it is also completely compostable, meaning that you are limiting the environmental damage your rubbish is creating – wherever your throw it away.
These are by no means solutions, and wherever climate change persists, we will see the coffee industry negatively impacted. However, there are small, everyday choices we can make to help facilitate change and encourage a more renewable approach for the future.