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Arabica coffe reduces GHG emissions

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San Jose, April 19th (CSF): Small-scale ecological and Fair Trade producers of Cooperatives Without Borders (CSF) of Central and South America adopted a system that allows them to measure and verify scientifically the ability to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) in their crops.

This method developed by the World Bank in 2011 is called Sustainable Agriculture Land Management (SALM). SALM is based on internationally recognized mathematical agronomic models (*), is low cost and its application involves the participation of small-scale producers. In addition, it features the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) required by carbon markets.

Application in Costa Rica and results

This methodology was applied in 2015 by the small-scale producers of the Association Alliance of Organic Producer Families of Costa Rica through a collaboration agreement with the Italian expert group in agronomic management Timesis. The methodology consisted of Timesis testing two plots of coffee, one organic and one not, in order to obtain their mitigation potential. During the experiment the smallholders participated by providing relevant data for the test such as plot dimensions, accounting, levels of coexisting elements in the coffee systems, data on soil management, etc. All of these elements are necessary for the implementation of the mathematical agronomic model by Timesis.

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The Executive Coordinator of CSF, Rosa Bustillos, explained that the test was carried out on a plot of Arabica coffee (5,720 plants) grown in the shade of fruit and legume tree species (around 600 trees). A side by side comparison was done versus the plot of shaded non-organic Arabica coffee with the same amount of coffee per hectare under the cover of 235 avocado trees. Both of these crops have a productive lifespan of 25-30 years.

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The results from the organic plot were a potential mitigation (secuestration) of 3 tons of CO2 per hectare per year, while the emissions from active monitoring of the conventional plot’s CO2 were 0.74 tons per hectare per year.  It is important to mention that the mitigation potential figure is derived from the agronomic practices of soil biomass and not necessarily from the organic system.

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In the non-organic plot there was zero biomass management, zero CO2 capture in the ground, a decrease of carbon in the soil due to the use of chemical fertilizers and an emissions release flow of 1.67 t CO2 per hectares per year. 

Thus, the small producers of the Alliance demonstrated that a hectare of Arabica coffee can offset the annual emissions of an average of three cars.

Adding value to live well 

“The interest in adopting the potential CO2 sequestration measurement tool is not to participate in carbon markets, but to add value to our crops of coffee and cocoa, and to receive a better price for our products grown by our families and communities,” explains one of the directors of CSF and President of the Alliance, Minor Corrales. He added that maintaining appropriate management practices that incorporate biomass into plots improves productivity and crop yields. Above all it allows them to be resilient to changes in water cycles which are severely impacting the planet produced by the release of greenhouse gases (GHG emissions) that cause global warming.  

Corrales Gamboa said that after demonstrating the potential of mitigation, the next step is to form a group of participants of the CO2 measurement model among producers, buyers and users in order to create a participatory guarantee system for verification and creation of a distinctive seal and label.  

This new feature within the products of Cooperatives Without Borders will enable greater differentiation in the marketplace and a more attractive offer for commercial participation. The products will be capable of satisfying the growing interest of users in the realm of mitigating the effects of climate change through their purchase decisions, effects which are already beginning to be felt around the globe. 

The mitigation potential of CO2 of the alliance’s smallholder organic coffee farmers has set off in search of a market this year and has already come up with commercial groups interested in the development of this type of product. 

nl /20.04.17

translated by Jesse Trace

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(*) ROTH-C, ARMOSA, etc