Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage and it takes up a special space in our life and society which has little to do with just consumption. It has found itself in the works of T. S Elliot and Louisa May Alcott who wrote; “I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now” in Little Women. If the world were in need of a mascot for human civilization, Coffee would be a fit recommendation followed by chocolate. From Charlie and the chocolate factory to a cartoonist who exclaims “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” chocolate has also found its way in our culture.
Coffee and chocolate are similar in many ways. For starters, they both have a component called caffeine which acts like a stimulant to the brain. They are both cultivated under the canopy of tropical forests with a subtle differences.
Coffee plant is a very sensitive and responds rather profoundly to changes in climatic conditions. It requires temperatures to stay between 14 and 25°C and rainfall between`1400 and 2000 mm per year. The cocoa plant may not be as sensitive as Coffee but it still requires
humidity levels to be a 100% during the day and 70-80 percent during the night. The change in seasons is causing the temperatures to seesaw between cold that stunts growth, and heat that dries the berries and the beans before they can be harvested.
Therefore, while playing devil’s advocate in climate change discussions, we find ourselves asking; do they stand a chance?
But to answer that, we need to understand the ground on which the crisis stands and who is to be blamed. Three facets are held responsible;
1) Shifting Climate which makes the environment unsuitable for cultivation
2) Pests which infest good harvest
3) Financial insecurities when farmers earn roughly half the price of a cappuccino per day.
The under-discussed aspect of Climate Change is the impact it has on Water Cycle. Rising temperatures lead to increased evaporation rates and decreased humidity making droughts and floods more prevalent and extreme. This drop in humidity causes cocoa crops to suffer. In the last four decades, 40 percent of the land available for cocoa cultivation has been extirpated, leaving uncertainty about the future at its wake. As with coffee, half of the land currently used for cultivation will be projected as unsuitable by 2050.
This is what climate change could look like for all of us; not just hurricanes or floods or fires, instead those things we take for granted become more and more expensive and harder to find until one day they might vanish entirely.
The solution lies in the past – diversification of crops. Before intensification and monoculture were adopted, farmers used traditional diverse farming methods which reduced their exposure to climate and other risks. Many sustainable farming methods have already been adopted by communities in tropical regions. One of them includes the Cacau Cabruca Agroforestry System. Under this, cacao trees are planted in the shade of other trees which works as a shield from the sun, wind and pests. In other parts of the world, farmers are working closely with the Rainforest Alliance as a part of their commitment to climate-smart agriculture (Drip Irrigation System). Rainforest Alliance is a not-for-profit organisation which promotes sustainable production keeping in mind environmental standards and the well being of rural population.
We, as consumers who thoroughly enjoy our coffee breaks and chocolates for snacks have a role to play in their survival. Let’s be a little more conscious about our consumption patterns. Tata’s Tetley tea, Galaxy Chocolates, Lipton Tea, Magnum, Rosamonte, Costa Coffee, Baskin Robbins, etc, are all Rainforest Alliance Certified products. By buying these products, we are already making an environmentally conscious decision. Buying organic food also promotes sustainable agricultural habits, which is both beneficial for farmers as well as for the environment.
Let’s spread the word and get people to talk. Educating and informing someone does not take more than just a conversation. A chain is as weak as its weakest link. Let’s not be the weak link which connects the facts given out by scientists to sustainable activities that must follow.
Call To Action:
Everyone has a role to play in response to the escalating climate crisis. We at Butterfly Fields, are playing the part of educators, informing you about the various ways in which climate change is affecting us and the steps we can take to reduce these effects. As part of this effort, we will be posting on our blog about different aspects of Climate Change in hopes to raise awareness and increase combating efforts.