Human Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 443-463

First online:

Farmers' Perspectives on the Role of Shade Trees in Coffee Production Systems: An Assessment from the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

  • Andrea AlbertinAffiliated withSchool of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida
  • , P. K. R. NairAffiliated withSchool of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida

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Interest in shade-grown coffee is now increasing because of declining coffee prices in the world market and an increasing trend toward “green consumerism.” It is therefore important to understand farmers' perception of the role of shade trees in coffee fields, an area that has not received deserving attention in research agendas. On the basis of detailed interviews involving both “open-ended” and “closed” questions with 83 small-scale coffee farmers in the Peninsula of Nicoya, Costa Rica, we found that characteristics that farmers considered important were mostly comparable to those stated in the literature. But some differences were also noted; examples included tree height (considered important by farmers, but not in literature) and leaf size (mentioned in literature, but not by farmers). Some tree species that were not considered beneficial as coffee shade trees were still retained in the fields because of the additional benefits they provided. Eighty-eight percent of farmers were interested in incorporating more trees, especially fruit trees, into their coffee plantations. The results of the study underscore the need for research on the little-studied area of interaction between coffee plants and fruit trees.

agroforestry fruit trees shaded-perennial system shade-grown coffee