What's the connection between your cup of coffee and the world's rarest primate?
Some of the world’s best coffee regions overlap almost identically with the richest forests and wildlife areas. The Jamaican Blue Mountain is a coffee from cloud forests in the Caribbean. The Hawaiian Kona is grown on volcanic slopes along moist forests which support numerous endemic trees, ferns and climbers. The winey, dry Ethiopian Harar comes from the Ethiopian highlands where spotted hyenas have cultivated a unique interaction with Harar’s inhabitants over the last 500 years.
In India, the Lion-Tailed Macaque and Indian Moon Moth amble through forest fragments in the Western Ghats.
Fragments that are often shaped by crisscrossing coffee farms. The presence of wild species (plants and animals) is then influenced by the boundaries of farms themselves as well as the activities that are practiced on them.
Our conservation goal is to keep a shifting balance between place, ecology and coffee economics.
All conservation efforts are two-fold. All participating producers commit to adopting a biodiversity-friendly farming practice – a conservation manifesto so to speak. Following that we carry out participatory monitoring of changes that one might observe as a result.
The magnificence of an evolving manifesto is that we can adapt based on what we observe. We can reforest certain areas and not others depending on what species we observe. We can increase or decrease the threshold of tree canopy cover based on how coffee yields respond. The beauty of uncertainty is because we ourselves don’t know how ecosystems will respond, we can be totally transparent about our observations. And so, long-term monitoring plots and adaptive management. Track us as we go along….
(1) Tracking soil biodiversity
Living soils ought to host tonnes of critters. We gauge this by digging through farm soil for earthworms, flatworms, land snails and slugs. We also evaluate soil nutrients and organic carbon.
(2) Measuring water quality
Water quality is monitored through measuring dissolved oxygen, pH, total dissolved solids, toxicity and pesticide residue.
(3) Watching birds
Bird surveys across times and seasons indicate the ability of coffee farms to host birds in transit or for feeding and nesting activities. We do this through systematic sampling every year.
(4) Light-trapping moths
The presence of moths and butterflies is considered to be a revealing sign about the health of an ecosystem. We light-trap moths as a way of understanding whether the natural vegetation on coffee farms can support an abundance and variety of species.
(5) Sighting mammals
Scats, pellets, footprints and burrowing are tell-tale signs that small and large mammals have traversed through farm areas. Camera traps add data. Some mammals are more evasive than others and sighting them indicates that farms are good habitat and human disturbance is low.
(6) Checklisting trees
Every tree found on a farm - its abundance and species is listed annually. This allows us to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate farms as potential wildlife habitat and repositories for indigenous tree species.