Addressing Coffee and Climate Change: The Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Coffee Breakfast 2018

35862112875_3d4d3005cd_o coffeeBy Sara Young, Markets Transformation Coordinator for Specialty Coffee

As the effects of climate change become a growing concern, coffee production is increasingly impacted by rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, droughts and other environmental issues, including pests and diseases. Farmers on Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified farms are trained to address these problems through climate-smart agriculture methods that can help them adapt to the changes taking place on their farms, as well as reduce the negative impact of these farms on the climate.

One such example is a group of Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffee producers in the coastal region of Oaxaca, Mexico, that is restoring the forests and sustainably managing their coffee farms to fight climate change. The Rainforest Alliance has been working with a group of more than 250 smallholder coffee farmers on an innovative forest carbon project, earning validation from one of the most rigorous greenhouse gas accounting programs in the world, the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Through reforestation, the project will likely remove 130,000 tons of emissions from the atmosphere over 30 years—that’s about the equivalent of the annual emissions for 27,000 cars. More about their work restoring forests is found in this video.

Another example can be found in Guatemala, one of the ten countries most affected by climate change, with the piloting of the Rainforest Alliance Farmer Training App, featured in a UNESCO-Pearson case study. The Rainforest Alliance set out to help farmers make risk assessments on the effects of climate change in their region, and identify specific measures to help mitigate these impacts. In 2017, the tablet-based Rainforest Alliance Farmer Training App was launched, delivering sustainable agriculture training information to rural farmers, and providing a free, downloadable platform for farmers to connect with each other, no matter how remote their location, and with other stakeholders in the supply chain. This allowed the farmers to share information, ask specific questions from each other, learn about the global impact of farming on the environment, and learn how to improve their climate smart practices. The app reached 600 Guatemalan smallholder coffee farmers in the pilot stage, and has already scaled up to 29 countries globally (and growing!) thanks to its low barriers to entry such as availability in multiple languages and even some regional dialects, and user-friendly interface including instructional videos. The app addresses UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, Education, by improving information exchange and increasing farmers digital literacy, and resulting in shared farmland management strategies and best practices, and increasing yields and farmer incomes.

In a similar spirit of communication and engagement, at this year’s Sustainable Coffee Association (SCA) Expo in Seattle, Washington, USA, the Rainforest Alliance will host the 16th Annual Sustainable Coffee Breakfast on Friday, April 20th, at 8:00am. This annual event will gather coffee supply chain actors across the industry to discuss the future of sustainable coffee farming, and the effects of climate change on coffee growing regions. Topics will include key research in the field of sustainable coffee farming, trends in global certification, and news and updates on our work. To join the conversation, tickets can be purchased here.

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Han de Groot, the CEO of the Rainforest Alliance, will be among the speakers. As the former president of UTZ, with which the Rainforest Alliance merged in January 2018, he has overseen significant growth leading to UTZ’s standing as the world’s largest certification program for coffee and cocoa. During the breakfast, Han will share insights on the merger and provide glimpses into some of the strategic directions of the new Rainforest Alliance. Han will also announce this year’s Change Agent Award, which recognizes an individual or company in the coffee community demonstrating superior commitment to sustainability.

We are looking forward to discussing climate change impact and opportunities for innovation at the Sustainable Coffee Breakfast. Special thanks to our sponsor organizations: Balzac Brothers, Café de Colombia, Dunkin Brands, InterAmerican Coffee, Intercontinental Coffee Trading, La Minita Coffee, N.J. Douek/Uniglobe Coffee, Olam Specialty Coffee, Reunion Island Coffee, S&D Coffee and Tea, and Sustainable Harvest.

For more information, please contact Sara Young at or stop by Booth #221 throughout the Expo and say hello!

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