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Planning for the worst in the world’s coffee origins

From the May 2012 issue.

Climate change presents a very real danger for the future of the world’s coffee origins. The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation is taking a preventative approach by turning to climatically intelligent activity.

Environmental initiatives for Colombian farmersWhat state will the world’s coffee plantations be in 10, 20 or 50 years from now? Drought stricken? Disease riddled? Or simply blossoming?

Luis Fernando Samper, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), says there’s no point in waiting for the worst case scenario. It’s a matter of acting now or suffering the consequences.

“They (the farmers) are already experiencing problems in the field, and many of them had coffee leaf rust attacks that almost destroyed their livelihoods. We are all learning and investing for the future,” Samper says. “We have to prepare for the worst case scenario. That means we have to offer as much assistance to plantations as possible and it’s exactly what we’re doing.”

In early 2012, the FNC, an organisation representing over 563,000 small coffee growers; and Cenicafé, the FNC’s National Coffee Research Centre, announced their plans to prepare for a worst case scenario that could effect Colombian coffee farms over the next 20 to 30 years. According to Cenicafé, farmers risk seeing excessive levels of rainfall, reduced sunshine, low temperatures, high humidity and a high intensity and frequency of La Niña events. La Niña is the extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. It is the sister event to El Niño, the unusual warming of ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

La Niña conditions in Colombia and much of Central America can increase the incidence and severity of diseases such as rust leaf. Excess moisture in the soil can cause yellow colouring of leaves and roots, possibility killing the plants.

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