In our last article in Coffee Plus we took a look a “Sustainable Coffees” and mentioned countries that grow coffee in the sun by mass production methods and those who grow coffee naturally using methods in the shade. These natural or sustainable methods of growing coffee preserve native forest and biodiversity and use few if any chemicals. The reason that these sun-growing production methods were employed can be compared to the production methods that are used on livestock in that farmers got greedy and wished to make the process more efficient as well as lucrative.
To achieve this goal, coffee in some locations is no longer grown in natural environments like the forest and is grown in the sun to intensify production, maximize profits and increase efficiency. These are trademarks of a focus on money and a decrease on quality. In fact, in an attempt to help keep up with the world’s demand for coffee plus to increase yields, the U.S. Agency for International Development gave $80 million to select Central American plantations to replace their natural shade grown coffees with sun grown coffees. This type of growing is called a monoculture, and is a method to produce large harvests with minimal labor.
Monocultures can lead to quicker spread of disease as well as require fertilizers and pesticides to be added to prevent common diseases from ruining crops. In the natural shade grown method, these chemicals are not added to the coffee plus don’t result in unsustainable products such as these that monocultures produce. When different crops are mixed or coffees are left to grow naturally, there is much more likelihood that one or more of the crops will be resistant to disease.
Pesticides are bad for the environment as well as are responsible for degrading nearby soil and water sources that put people at risk for contamination. Forests are being lost due to farmers removing the natural land and replacing it with monocultures and pesticide-containing crops to help corporations make millions each year. The commercial middlemen who are paying the growers low wages are allowing these workers to endure extremely poor working conditions to turn a profit. These farmers in countries like Guatemala earn approximately $500 to $1,000 a year and suffer from wages equivalent to those in sweatshops. These families are so poor that the young are forced to begin working in the fields and are deprived from sufficient education that would allow them to improve their quality of life.
The coffee plus the local communities that work to bring us our beverages every morning are suffering as a result of this growing method. Next time you choose a coffee, make sure it is grown in sustainable environments that are beneficial to the coffee plus the farmers.
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