How Coffee is Restoring the Amazon
Coffee seedlings growing in an Apui nursery (Amazon, Brazil).
When thinking of coffee in Brazil, one rarely considers the rich and biodiverse Amazon Rainforest as a producer of the well-known crop. However, thanks to various reforestation projects, coffee is gaining prominence in the Amazon as not only a cash crop but a method to restore deforested areas.
For the past 17 years, Idesam has been working with traditional Amazonian communities, educating various producers about sustainable agricultural practices such as agroforestry, intercropping, amongst many other agronomic techniques. Specifically, the Apui project is focused on coffee in the southern reaches of the Amazon and restoring the lost forest cleared for cattle grazing. This project was initiated in 2012, and now works with 57 coffee-producing families encompassing 92 hectares, a number that nearly doubled within the last few years.
The goals behind this project are driven by the gap in producers’ knowledge in how to sustainably produce profitable goods. This has led to the deforestation of pristine Amazon Rainforest to graze cattle and grow other cash crops such as Soya. By teaching these locals how to work with the forest rather than against it, producers were able to learn how to sustainably grow coffee whilst also intercropping other goods like cocoa and açai.
Due to the low altitude of this region, Robusta is the best option for coffee production as Arabica requires a more specified climate. It is still early days for the project, so quality assessment is limited to visual rather than taste. Yet, improvements for a tasting lab are underway. The coffee yield increases each year as more producers join the project, and yield improves individually over time with adoption of the aforementioned agricultural practices. In order to widen their breadth, the Apui team will visit the Amazon region periodically and reach out to locals by going door-to-door. Once a producer joins, they are given information on how to improve their agricultural systems in addition to various saplings to plant throughout their land.
Additionally, training in agroecological techniques is provided since the soil in the region is quite acidic and not too suitable for coffee production. In just the past ten years, nearly 27,000 native trees have been planted. These range from Inga, Copaiba, Açaí de Touceira, Andiroba grande, Cacau Copaíba, “Mari Mari,” and Ingá de metro Pitanga.
As the first agroforestry coffee in the Amazon progresses, the team are hoping to provide locals with more independence to sell within the international market whilst also growing a quality product sustainably. The Apui region has its own mill where the coffee cherries are hulled after being dried naturally in the open sun. The steps of processing, roasting, and commercialization of coffee are the responsibility of the company Aamzônia Agroflorestal, which today already sells Café Apuí Agroflorestal Coffee throughout Brazil, in addition to exporting part of the production to Eurocaps.
Mercanta discovered this project a few years ago after EuroCaps, a European coffee pod company, reached out to have assistance with the movement of this coffee. Thanks to our support at origin, we were able to secure the 50 bags from the Amazon, move the coffee to one of our exporting partners, SanCoffee, and fill the container to be shipped to the UK.
It is a small presence, but we hope to continue providing assistance with this project and hope once the quality improves, to purchase a selection of coffee for our clients throughout the world. And thus, helping promote the reforestation of the Amazon via the planting of coffee.