Coffee producers need policies changes to help them adapt to climate change

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Flores

Coffee is largely grown in regions where smallholder farmers face poverty, and climate change threatens devastation to their crops. A recent review published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy shows that minor adaptations to climate change may be feasible for small coffee farmers, but projected changes will be too great for farmers to manage on their own. Instead, they will need governmental support to stay in business. Smallholder coffee farmers are expected to experience major shifts in growing conditions associated with climate change such as increased pest and disease pressure. Although science-based recommendations have been developed to help farmers adapt to these changes, on-the-ground implementation has not been worked through. The review shows that as climate-induced changes increase, so will the need for more complex adaptation strategies. Some sustainability certification programs can help guide coffee farmers to achieve minor adaptations, but larger-scale application of practices such as organic transition, crop or variety diversification, and managing changes in temperature and rainfall will require collective action and coordination across coffee producing communities, regions, and even countries. Governments will need to implement policies and incentives that will allow farmers to grow coffee in a more sustainable way--which will also allow them to better adapt to the changing climate.