Tuesday, February 21, 2017

67. For Coffee, Climate Change is a Reality and Research is On-going

21. February, 2017
Climate change is not a theoretical discussion for coffee farmers. The question is "when" and "how" to deal with it. Unlike some folks in comfortable chairs in oval offices in Washington D.C., coffee farmers do not have the luxury of discussing "if" it exists. So organizations across the coffee industry are tackling the issue, hoping to learn from farmer experiences and share the best of what is known with farmers who may be struggling to adapt.

In December 2016 a colleague of mine at Michigan State University, Aniseh Bro, finished her Ph.D. in Community Sustainability on adaptation to climate change by coffee farmers in Nicaragua. [Formal title is: Biodiversity, Climate Change and Livelihoods: A Study on Economic and Ecological Sustainability Among Coffee Producers in the Highlands of Nicaragua.] 

Her thesis explores potential pathways for climate change adaptation via three separate studies. 
  1. First, she looks at the characteristics of coffee producers in northern Nicaragua. Bro explores their attitudes towards risk through the use of experimental risk games. She finds that household food insecurity is a determinant of risk aversion, and that coffee income is important insofar as it results in greater food security.  Below is a graphic depicting the relationships:

The slide below shows farmers' responses with disaggregation to show which responses are due to which of three shocks: pests, drought or flood.

This study also mentions the gender gap. Women are consistently worse off than men in this sample from northern Nicaragua. They are more vulnerable and more food insecure. Therefore, equitable interventions are needed. The table below shows some of the data, and a tell-tale public relations message is also shown in the photo to the left.
2. In the second study, Bro uses choice experiments to elicit farmers' preferences for shade incorporation into coffee farms. Shade helps protect soils, promote biodiversity and mitigate effects of higher temperatures from climate change or other causes. She finds that for a small pay premium, farmers are willing to incorporate additional shade into their farms. An unexpected finding is that farmers are not willing to give up any coffee income to have better access to pesticides, a likely reflection of the recent leaf rust outbreak in the country and the poor institutional response.
 3. The third study analyzes the degree to which cooperatives help farmers have adaptive capacity to climate change. Results show that cooperative membership is associated with higher adoption of practices recommended for adapting to climate change, such as planting shade trees and mulching. Cooperative membership is also a significant determinant of practices that promote water conservation. 

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