Battling climate change

Most of us are familiar with climate change; we notice the summer seems longer and hotter (not so bad if you're living in Canada!), we read about receding glaciers and melting icecaps, we hear the debates between politicians and scientists about the human role in it all. For farmers, climate change isn't simply a news story; it's a reality that is threatening their livelihood. Countries near the equator generally feel the greatest effects of climate change. Record rainfalls in certain areas and long-term drought in others have left farmers helpless when it comes to growing and nurturing the crops they and their families live off of both for sustenance and income.

Weather challenges are nothing new to the small scale coffee farmer. Dealing with uncontrollable variables is a constant part of life for a farmer. But the scale of challenge brought on by climate change has become nearly insurmountable for many farmers. In Uganda, a mix of deforestation (to keep up with the growing population) and unprecedented amounts of rain have created a recipe for utter disaster. Coffee farmers have been killed and entire communities have been wiped out by violent mudslides - those whose lives have been spared are left with devastated farms and houses. Similarly, in Peru, deforestation and mudslides have wreaked havoc on farming communities.

On the one hand, the future for farmers looks bleak. On the other hand, this drastic and unpredictable weather pattern has allowed for creative collaboration between the North and South to develop a solution for dealing with it. The UN has sponsored projects of reforestation in Uganda. An article in the Coffee and Cocoa International magazine in July explains the partnership between CEPICAFE (a secondary-level cooperative in Peru that Equator has worked with) and Cafe Direct (British Fairtrade coffee importer). They have developed a carbon credit system that not only provides an alternate source of income for the farmers but also allows them to invest in their future by planting trees that will eventually give them more wood for fuel. This is the kind of project that takes "fair trade" one step further.

Cafe Direct and CEPICAFE are not the only examples of this kind of partnership. Grassroots carbon credit programs are popping up all over. Taking Root is a group based in Montreal that has been particularly active in establishing partnerships between northern businesses (even some fellow coffee roasters!) and farmers in Nicaragua to offset carbon emissions involved in their operations.

In the midst of a ever-growing and ever-threatening challenge, farmers, NGOs, and businesses are partnering together to come up with sustainable solutions. What are you doing to help curve climate change?