Shade Grown Coffee

May 1, 2007

Image of Oaxaca countryside

Deforestation in Latin America's Shade Coffee
Growing Areas

Image of Mexican person picking coffee

Like petroleum, coffee is a widely traded global commodity, mostly consumed in developed countries and produced in developing countries. But while petroleum producers have recently seen international oil prices rise steeply, coffee growers have experienced the opposite: coffee prices fell to a 100-year low in 2001.

The ongoing "coffee crisis" has not only caused economic hardship in Latin America, it has also damaged forest ecosystems in this region.

Unlike sun coffee grown elsewhere, most Latin American coffee is grown under natural or managed tree cover, often in coastal areas that are quite rich ecologically but that face mounting population pressure. By preserving tree cover in these areas, shade coffee provides important environmental services including harboring biodiversity, sequestering carbon, and preventing soil erosion. Unfortunately, since the onset of the coffee crisis, shade coffee farms throughout Latin America have been cleared and often replaced with subsistence agriculture, pasture, and housing.

Over the past several years, RFF researchers teamed with in-country partners have been investigating tree cover loss in shade coffee areas of Mexico and El Salvador.

In a joint project with PROCAFE, a government coffee agency, RFF senior fellow Allen Blackman, and RFF research associate Jeff Chow, along with Beatriz Ávalos-Sartorio at the Center for Consultative Agricultural Research in Rome, and Francisco Aguilar at Louisiana State University, used satellite images, interview evidence, and a detailed geographic information system to measure tree cover loss in all three of El Salvador's shade coffee areas, to identify the land uses substituting for it, and to understand why some farms were cleared and other were not.

Their findings are presented in a report to the Inter-American Development Bank that is available in English (Tree Cover Loss in El Salvador's Shade Coffee Areas), and in Spanish (Pérdida de los bosques en las áreas de cultivo del café de sombra en El Salvador).

In a related project with Universidad del Mar in Puerto Angel, Oaxaca (Mexico), Allen Blackman, along with Heidi Albers at Oregon State University, Beatriz Ávalos-Sartorio, and Lisa Crooks formerly at RFF, used remote sensing images paired with other types of data to measure tree cover loss in Oaxacan shade coffee areas, and to understand spatial patterns of clearing.

Their results are reported in:

Link to Report
Tree Cover Loss in El Salvador's
Shade Coffee Areas
Allen Blackman, Beatriz Avalos-Sartorio,
Jeff Chow and Francisco Aguilar
An RFF Report

Link to Report
Haga click  para descargar el reporte titulado "Pérdida de los bosques en las áreas de cultivo del café de sombra en El Salvador" en español

Para accesar la versión completa inglés,
haga click aquí

Several related papers focus on policies that can be used to prevent further deforestation in Mexico.