The Last Refuge for the Amazon: Shade Grown Coffee

Shade grown coffee is the product of growing coffee plants underneath a canopy of trees. This method encourages ecological relationships between surrounding species and incorporates systems of natural ecology.

Compared to low shaded areas, shade grown coffee is found to provide the highest amount of diversity amongst other traditional methods of farming crops. Traditional methods of growing coffee such as sun grown The result of growing coffee this way encourages other bird, reptile, insect, plant and other species to also take advantage of the appropriate resources that is provided underneath the canopy. Brash (1987) expressed that bird species in known areas of deforestation that continued to grow traditionally shade grown coffee, have received low extinction rates. Similarly, Nir (1988) mentions species of orchids in Puerto Rico who have endured the mass destruction of deforestation through the ecosystems provided from shade grown coffee.

Rustic coffee growing require the least amount of disruption to the surrounding land but also leads to the lowest yield when comparing it to non shaded plantations. Removing shade when growing coffee increases yields for farmers, but only for a short period of time. The soil is more prone to erosion and rain runoff when those areas are exposed to the sun and other elements.

This begs the question of the farmer who must balance the best payoff for the best yield. With market fluctuations on price per pound, demand, and sustainability; NGO’s have a big job to uphold for providing regulations on coffee plantations as well as making sure farmers are being compensated a fair dollar for their labor. Farmers must also factor in the use of chemical assistance to grow coffee, more traditional growers will use less chemical input while modern farmers will allot more chemicals into their production.

One thought on “The Last Refuge for the Amazon: Shade Grown Coffee

  1. Lillian Vinson

    The balance of producing a big enough crop and maintaining the natural environment seems like it could be a struggle for many farmers, especially when money is tight and they aren’t being properly compensated. I’m not surprised that preserving and working with the natural ecosystem is what benefits everyone long-term. In my class about Haiti, we learned about their creole pigs who were really well adapted to foraging on the island but were forcibly exterminated due to interference from the US. The removal of the pigs caused a chain reaction that created both economic and ecological hardship for the people of Haiti. Since then no other pig has been able to take the place of the creole pig, there’s now a void in the ecosystem. I wonder if there is a way to rework economics so that everyone can begin to repair the environment.


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