Coffee, unlike many other crops, can be grown in the shade; as a shrub under a canopy of trees; or in full sun much like corn or soybeans. Although yields are typically lower in the shade, there are other benefits.
Much research has been devoted to the rich biodiversity found on shade-grown coffee plantations. The shade trees provide habitat for a variety of birds, many of which nest in temperate areas, such as North America, but spend the winter in tropical areas where coffee is grown.
In addition, the shade trees help prevent erosion, provide fertilizer, and eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides.
In this study, the value of the shade trees themselves was calculated on 338 coffee farms in Peru and Guatemala. The trees provide much needed firewood used for cooking and heating homes, lumber for building, and medicinal uses.
In fact, from one-fifth to one-third of these coffee farmers' income came from wood products. A shaded coffee farm is much more than just a source of coffee.
This article summarizes the information in this publication:
Rice, R.A. 2008. Agricultural intensification within agroforestry: The case of coffee and wood products. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 128(4): 212-218.
Compared to the environmental and conservation value as refuges for biodiversity, less is known about the social and economic value of shaded coffee systems. The agroforestry system can serve as a source of non-coffee products for diverse purposes. This study focuses on the role of shade trees in smallholder coffee farms, examining the wood products derived from the shaded coffee system. Data presented from surveys with 185 growers in Peru and 153 growers in Guatemala show that the consumption and sale of all non-coffee products account for a fifth to a third of the total value realized from the agroforestry system. Fuelwood and construction materials account for much of this value. Differences seen between countries can be traced to agricultural intensification – the degree to which the coffee agroforestry system is ‘‘technified’’ (i.e., managed with a reduced shade tree cover and diversity, high-yielding cultivars, agrochemical inputs, etc.) – as well as the relative demand for wood resources and farmers’ access to natural forest systems.
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