Sustainable cocoa and coffee

More coffee and less CO2: towards a carbon-neutral coffee in Ecuador and Peru

June 16, 2022
Natalia Palomino
Comunicación y gestión de fondos | Perú y Ecuador

During three days, more than 40 producers, academics and government representatives from Peru and Ecuador gathered in Cajamarca (Perú), for an exchange of experiences and lessons on mitigating the carbon footprint of coffee production. It was the kick-off event of the “More coffee and less CO2” project that aims to encourage strategies and policies for high yields of carbon-neutral coffee.

In May 2021, the highest emission of CO2 into the atmosphere was recorded: 415 parts per million. This translates into an increase in global temperature, the effects of which especially affect socio-economically strategic crops in the Andean region, such as coffee.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agriculture contributes between 10 and 12 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In May 2021, the highest emission of CO2 into the atmosphere was recorded: 415 parts per million. The effects of which especially affect socio-economically strategic crops in the Andean region, such as coffee.

In this context, the governments of Peru and Ecuador have renewed their climate commitments to 2030, to increase their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions fivefold. The project “More coffee and less CO2 in Ecuador and Peru” (COCO2) contributes to this. The project More coffee and less CO2 is coordinated by Rikolto with the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), the Consorcio de Gobiernos Autónomos Provinciales del Ecuador (CONGOPE), the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) and the Peruvian Plataforma Multiactor de Café de Cajamarca (PMACC) and funded by the Flemish government of Belgium in the framework of the G-STIC Climate Action Programme.

The event held on 31 May, 01 and 02 June in San Ignacio, Cajamarca brought together representatives from both countries to learn about research methodologies, training and innovation to promote the development of national strategies and policies that promote carbon-neutral coffee in the Andean region.

The initiative’s focus is to generate tools and capacities to quantify carbon emissions during the coffee production cycle, defining actions to help minimise them. The alliance with the academy will allow the coffee sector to make greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures more efficient, basing actions on evidence.

"The use of fertilisers - if our production is conventional - waste water from washing, deforestation and the implications of packaging and transport have effects on temperature increase. If we do not use environmentally sustainable methods, we will not be able to continue producing high quality coffee".

Mariela Wismann, Rikolto Coffee Programme Manager Latin America

Together with government and international entities, solutions will be scaled up towards strategies and public policies to reduce the carbon footprint of coffee and position carbon-neutral coffee in the market.

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Why promote the adoption of good agricultural practices and agroforestry systems?

Agroforestry Systems, designed based on life-cycle measurements of coffee production, are an important part of the action plans that will allow more carbon to be sequestered on farms, especially in the border areas of Cajamarca (Peru) and Zamora Chinchipe (Ecuador).

This has been demonstrated by recent studies carried out in alliance with the PUCP, as part of the Peruvian Network of Life Cycle and Industrial Ecology (Pelcan).

“In ESPOL we have about 10 years of research in life cycle analysis, carbon footprint and circular economy in energy, materials, and agri-food systems. Peru, through the PUCP, already has a track record in carbon footprint and sequestration in coffee production systems. The approach for the development of agroforestry systems used in Peru is an alternative worthy of study and use. For us, it is extremely important to internalise these experiences for the next steps of the project."

Angel Ramirez, Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Production Sciences | ESPOL

Angel Ramirez, dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Production Sciences of the ESPOL, highlighted during the learning exchange that the work of the academy lies in using quantitative methodologies to identify which parts of the (production) system there are opportunities for improvement. These will be analysed with the producers for policy development.

For Alexis Dueñas, Researcher at the Academic Department of Engineering, PUCP, there was a collaborative effort to capture data and oversee that process, to organise and validate it. "We showed that together we can think about a qualitatively different coffee, of course, carbon neutral. What comes next is the design of sustainable agroforestry systems”.

"These learnings are embodied in a coffee guide towards carbon neutrality (developed with Rikolto), but it would not have been possible to get there in a classical context in which researchers came and retrieved information. The path was possible through the participation of all entities, during the pandemic." Alexis Dueñas, Researcher at the Academic Department of Engineering, PUCP

The exchange of experiences was a first step that will allow coffee producers from Cajamarca and Zamora Chinchipe to learn and replicate good practices, with the support of international experts.

Participants shared details of the development process of the environmental footprint calculator (CalCafé/PromPerú), the experience of participatory research for the study of the environmental footprint in the Cajamarca region, tools such as manuals and training, agroforestry models as part of the farm's risk management plan, and examples of good practices to reduce the carbon footprint (production of organic fertiliser and coffee husks).

From Ecuador, the CONGOPE analyst, Henry Moreira, highlighted that together with the Provincial GADs, they have previously worked on the creation of programmes to promote coffee production and consumption, as well as actions to analyse climate vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector.

"We are looking for strategic alliances to improve the territorial development that will allow us to build, at the territorial level, improvement proposals for sustainable production, to be more resilient to climate change, and to generate territorial competitiveness and economic development. In the project, CONGOPE will train both coffee producers and technicians of the Provincial GADs of the Zamora Chinchipe area in sustainable production practices, in the promotion of agroforestry systems, low-emission production and carbon sequestration. This will allow us to replicate a more sustainable production model throughout the country". Henry Moreira, CONGOPE analyst

Together with the institutions that are part of the project consortium, national and international entities such as the Belgian Embassy in Peru and Ecuador, UNDP, Rainforest Alliance, Ministries of Environment and Agriculture and Livestock of Ecuador (Proamazonía project), Sernanp, Senasa, Regional Government of Cajamarca, Provincial Municipality of San Ignacio, San Ignacio Agrarian Agency, MOCCA/USDA project, cooperatives Cenfrocafé, ACPC Pichanaki, Selva Andina and Valles del Café participated in the launch and subsequent exchange.

Producer organisations allied to the initiative also participated: Ecuador, Apecap; Peru, Unicafec, Casil, Aprocassi and La Prosperidad de Chirinos.

The exchange activity was carried out in partnership with the Coffee & Climate project funded by the government of the Belgian province of Vlaams-Brabant.

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