21 Apr 2016

Mexican Coffee Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Coffee farmers in Mexico are recovering from leaf rust disease and increasing their resilience to climate change thanks to a project by Fairtrade, CLAC and Lidl Germany.

Small-scale farmers in rural areas are amongst those hit hardest by climate change. One clear example of this was the devastating spread of leaf rust across Latin America in recent years, an outbreak caused by rising temperatures, partly due to climate change. In Mexico, the fungal disease meant farmers lost around 40 percent of their crop in 2012, and continues to pose a serious challenge to their livelihoods.

Tiemelonla Nich Klum cooperative (TNK), located in the Mexican highlands in Chiapas was one of the small-scale cooperatives hit by this outbreak. The cooperative, which produces organic and Fairtrade coffee, lost around 60 percent of their harvest in 2014-15. Some members lost up to half of their coffee plants to the disease. Many of the farmers had very old coffee bushes, or weren’t applying good agricultural practices, increasing their vulnerability to leaf rust and other climate change impacts.

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Farmers field school
Image courtesy of CLAC

To help support these farmers, Fairtrade International and the regional producer network, CLAC, launched a project called “Supporting Indigenous Organic Coffee Producers in Mexico Adapt to Climate Change”, with funding from Lidl Germany.

The one-year-project (August 2015 – August 2016) aims to enable TNK cooperative to recover from the impacts of leaf rust and to increase their resilience to climate change.

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The project aims to support the cooperative to recover from the impacts of leaf rust and to increase their resilience to climate change.
Image courtesy of CLAC

The project has three main components:

  1. Increasing farmers’ awareness and knowledge on climate change
  2. Planting 125,000 coffee plants to revitalize members’ farms
  3. Training for farmers on good agricultural practices (coffee renovation, integrated pest management, fertilization and soil nutrition)

So far, 27 lead farmers have received climate change training, which they will then use to train other members. Sixteen of these farmers also participated in training on climate change issues specific to coffee, such as choosing suitable coffee varieties, replacing ageing coffee bushes, monitoring leaf rust, and soil fertility. As a result of this training, TNK has developed a climate change adaptation plan, and has also decided to plant a new variety of coffee, which is more resistant to leaf rust and sells for a higher price at market. Farmer field schools are also underway.

Members of the cooperative are eager to apply the newly gained knowledge, to help secure their future in coffee farming: “If we don’t consider how the climate is changing, all the hard work of the members will be lost and there will be no production,” said Adolfo Lopez Álvaro, member of TNK.

Read more about Fairtrade’s work on climate change