Tribes are harvesting shade-grown coffee from under the canopy of mature trees, with huge benefits for wildlife and the community.
The remote Mayni community is growing organic coffee beneath the canopy of the native forest in order to preserve the rich mosaic of life there. Most of the forest is kept intact, with just a little undergrowth cleared to plant Coffea arabica trees. Dahlia Casancho, who is leading the Mayni in their eco-friendly coffee-growing endeavours says that “Nature is our home. Nature gives us water, feeds us and also allows us to grow our coffee. That’s why we take great care of our forest and we want it to be sustainable so that our children can also enjoy it."
Peru is the second-largest producer of organic coffee by area and the largest organic coffee supplier to Europe. Shade-grown coffee from around the world is providing a viable alternative to the sun-tolerant coffee plants that have been developed since the 1970s, which require clearing land for vast plantations that deplete the soil over time.
Thanks to the Mayni’s agroforestry methods, the transition from the “montane” ecosystem, or cloud forest, to coffee plantation is difficult to distinguish, even for Oliver Whaley, a rainforest biodiversity scientist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
“When shade-grown coffee is well-managed, it’s the most amazing crop for biodiversity and you’ll hardly know that you’ve walked into a coffee-growing area,” he says.
Peru’s coffee-growing regions have some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, with about 300 tree species in just one hectare, according to Whaley. “If I took 20 insects from the canopy, half could be new species,” he says. “So much has not yet been recorded.”
Crucially, coffee agroforestry systems also store carbon in the fertile soil and support the cultivation of nitrogen-fixing trees.
The success of this sustainable coffee production ultimately depends on a greater demand for products grown in this way. Mayni coffee retails at £9.50 for 250g, but it seems people are willing to pay more. “It’s all about consumers bypassing the corruption and effecting change quite significantly in this case,” Whaley says. “Consumer power can change and protect the ecosystem.”
Weaving New Bridge Inka Style
Every year, local communities on either side of the Apurimac River Canyon use traditional Inka engineering techniques to rebuild the Q'eswachaka Bridge, near Cusco, Peru. The old bridge is taken down and the new bridge is built in only three days. The bridge has been rebuilt in this same location continually since the time of the Inka. This delightful 3 minute video shows what a team work and community spirit can achieve in 3 days.