Coffee, a shrub grown in tropical areas around the world, can be grown in two basic ways: It can be grown in a manner similar to corn or other crops, in rows under the sun; or, scattered under a canopy of trees.
The traditional way of growing coffee is the latter system, in the shade. Sun coffee does provide higher yields, but the shaded system offers many other benefits to the coffee farmer.
One such benefit is that fruit trees can be used to shade the coffee. Farmers in both Guatemala (in Central America) and Peru (in South America) were surveyed as to their use of fruit trees on their shade grown coffee farms.
Farm income from the fruit grown averaged about 10 percent of their total income. In Guatemala, more of the fruit is sold at market whereas in Peru more of the fruit is consumed on the farm. This discrepancy may be due to the better transportation system in Guatemala in the areas studied.
Bananas, of various types, are commonly grown in both countries, but more so in Peru. Citrus and other fruit trees are also grown. In times of low coffee prices, the production of fruit can be a great help to the farmer.
This article summarizes the information in this publication:
Rice, R.A. 2011. Fruits from shade trees in coffee: how important are they? Agroforestry Systems DOI 10.1007/s10457-011-9385-4.
Agroforestry systems often receive attention and support in the literature for what is perceived as the benefits from multiple products associated with the trees that create the ‘‘forest’’ component of the setting. A comparison of small coffee growers’ use of fruits derived from the coffee agroforestry holding in Guatemala and Peru reveals that significant differences exist between these groups—not merely in the importance of the fruits themselves, but in the ways they are used. The overall importance of fruits from the coffee system accounts for a relatively small portion of the total value coming from the coffee area (about 10%), but the consumption and sales of the various products do generate needed income or sustenance for most farmers. The fate of fruits shows significant differences between the two countries. Whether at the farm level or on a per hectare basis, Guatemalan coffee farmers are more linked into a market economy and sell significantly more fruits than Peruvian farmers. The opposite is the case when on-farm consumption (use value) of the fruits is compared. While the potential value of these products may be quite large (from $95 to $270/ha), we find that little gets consumed or sold, resulting in tremendous loss of potential benefits that could flow from these sources. Both groups lose more fruits than are sold or used, with Guatemalans foregoing more than three times the dollar value per hectare than Peruvians ($151/ha vs. $44/ha). Data about the economic context within which these growers and the fruits from coffee are found reveal possible reasons as to why we see the differences in use and exchange values realized in the two countries.
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