Integrating Agriculture, Conservation and Ecotourism: Examples from the Field

Volume 1 of the series Issues in Agroecology – Present Status and Future Prospectus pp 141-208


A Review of Ecosystem Services, Farmer Livelihoods, and Value Chains in Shade Coffee Agroecosystems

  • Shalene JhaAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California Email author 
  • , Christopher M. BaconAffiliated withEnvironmental Studies Institute, Santa Clara University
  • , Stacy M. PhilpottAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences, University of Toledo
  • , Robert A. RiceAffiliated withMigratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
  • , V. Ernesto MéndezAffiliated withEnvironmental Program and Plant and Soil Science Department, University of Vermont
  • , Peter LäderachAffiliated withCentro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)

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Cultivation, processing, and consumption of coffee are dynamic processes that connect coffee farmers and agro-ecosystems with coffee drinkers spanning the globe. As a cash crop, coffee cultivation gained popularity in the Old and then the New world, and flourished under colonial regimes of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Coffee production patterns and management styles have changed ­drastically in the past two centuries and continue to shift, with the greatest recent expansions in East Asia. Traditionally, coffee is cultivated under a canopy of shade trees, a practice that ensures the longevity of the farm, supports biodiversity, and provides communities with a broad array of ecosystem services. However, many modern management schemes abandon shade practices. On the other hand, specialty coffee markets, like certified organic, certified shade (Bird Friendly), Fair Trade, and other certified coffees have gained recent popularity, though they still represent a small fraction of the global coffee economy. The global coffee economy is comprised of a wide array of coffee value chains that connect farmers with consumers, and thus impact farmer livelihoods at multiple spatial scales. Key players in the coffee value chain include local cooperatives, national government agencies, and global certification agencies. Similarly, ecosystem services provided by shade coffee occur at local, regional, and global scales, including pollination, erosion-control, and carbon sequestration, respectively. While the ecological and socio-economic costs and benefits associated with shade coffee are clear, this review reveals that there are many challenges to bridging sustainable coffee management with livelihood security. Furthermore, in this review we identify existing gaps in the literature and a number of promising research directions concerning the ecological and socio-economic impacts of coffee production.