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Mesoamerican coffee: building a climate change adaptation strategy

In Mesoamerica, coffee is an important part of agricultural GDP and export revenues which supports about half a million farmers, and employs millions of people on the farms and all along the supply chain. This policy brief summarises the potential risks and impacts of climate change on coffee farming in the region. Traditional coffee agroforests provide important ecosystem services and conserve significant carbon stocks. Climate change threatens coffee production, as projected increases in temperature and changes in rainfall will likely reduce crop suitability in most current growing areas. Options include adaptation (e.g., agronomic interventions), alternative income sources (e.g., crop substitution), and migration (e.g., to more suitable higher altitudes). Supply chain actors must collaborate and make strategic, collective investments to respond to these new threats. Given the long lead time for investments, actions must be taken now. Given the importance of coffee to Mesoamerican economies, adaptation to climate change should be made a priority. In particular, states should invest in and utilise research to create site-specific adaptation policies, which may involve:

  • developing climate stress-resistant coffee varieties; validating agronomic management strategies; and improving market links
  • providing financial assistance via subsidies, insurance, and ecosystem payments (through either direct remuneration, or the development of markets to reward sustainable land practices and forest conservation)
  • promoting diversification as a short-term risk management strategy and a long-term bridge to full crop substitution.