Coffee can grow a lot of places (e.g. the sad trees in our Durham office), but it only produces quality beans under certain climatic conditions. These conditions like the amount and timing of rainfall are beginning to shift because of global climate change—altering and shrinking the areas where quality beans can be grown. Shifting climatic conditions also create challenges for processing, drying, and transporting coffee. All of which puts coffee production and coffee farmers at risk.
As an industry, we’re well aware of these risks, and we’re taking some pretty novel collective actions aimed at increasing climate change resilience in coffee-growing regions. As a roaster, our role is trickier. We participate in these industry-wide initiatives and mitigate our own carbon footprint, but what can we do to address the more-immediate needs of farmers? We’re not agricultural technicians with expertise in adaptation practices, and we can’t be everywhere at once to help implement these practices. What we can do is offer a tool that empowers people to make decisions based on the expertise they already have.
This July, we traveled to Chirinos, Peru, to test our first-ever climate change adaptation workshop with help from Twin Trading and Kathryn Gaasch—a master’s student at the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment. The workshop is the culmination of the research we’ve been doing with Duke University students for the past three years. Over the course of two days, 25 members of the La Prosperidad cooperative participated in a series of exercises that lead them through identifying the issues they’re facing as a result of climate change, brainstorming solutions to those issues, and exploring the feasibility of the solutions. By the end of the workshop, participants ranked the most feasible and impactful adaptation solutions for the members of La Prosperidad.
As a roaster, we don’t want to push any particular climate change adaptation solution for every coffee partnership because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Every place is impacted by climate change differently, and every farm and coffee organization has different resources available, meaning that the most feasible and impactful adaptations vary widely across our supply chain.
There are two particularly neat things about this workshop that address these challenges: the workshop is based on participatory methodology, and it’s specific to the conditions and resources at the place where the workshop is held. We’re not the experts on climate change impacts or the availability of resources for adaptation projects in Chirinos, Peru, for example, but the farmers who attend these workshops know a lot about these topics. The workshop is designed to harness the information that participants already have and uses exercises to pull out their knowledge in a way that leads to a collective decision about the adaptation solution(s) that will work best for them, in their context.
We were really pleased with the results of our test workshop, and we hope to replicate the process with as many of our supply chain partners as possible. We’re also working with Twin Trading to publish a toolkit this year so that other coffee actors can repeat the workshop within their own supply chains.
Climate change is a big issue, with environmental, social, and economic impacts throughout the coffee industry. Everyone in the supply chain has a role to play, and we hope this workshop makes it easier for others to take part in finding and fulfilling their role.