, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 41-49
Date: 03 Apr 2011

Fruits from shade trees in coffee: how important are they?

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Agroforestry systems often receive attention and support in the literature for what is perceived as the benefits from multiple products associated with the trees that create the “forest” component of the setting. A comparison of small coffee growers’ use of fruits derived from the coffee agroforestry holding in Guatemala and Peru reveals that significant differences exist between these groups—not merely in the importance of the fruits themselves, but in the ways they are used. The overall importance of fruits from the coffee system accounts for a relatively small portion of the total value coming from the coffee area (about 10%), but the consumption and sales of the various products do generate needed income or sustenance for most farmers. The fate of fruits shows significant differences between the two countries. Whether at the farm level or on a per hectare basis, Guatemalan coffee farmers are more linked into a market economy and sell significantly more fruits than Peruvian farmers. The opposite is the case when on-farm consumption (use value) of the fruits is compared. While the potential value of these products may be quite large (from $95 to $270/ha), we find that little gets consumed or sold, resulting in tremendous loss of potential benefits that could flow from these sources. Both groups lose more fruits than are sold or used, with Guatemalans foregoing more than three times the dollar value per hectare than Peruvians ($151/ha vs. $44/ha). Data about the economic context within which these growers and the fruits from coffee are found reveal possible reasons as to why we see the differences in use and exchange values realized in the two countries.