MANAGEMENT CRITERIA FOR
( For a slide show of shade grown coffee,
courtesy of Seattle Audubon Society, click
(Note: This summary of shade criteria
coffee has been developed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in the
spirit of cooperation and mutual interest with others involved in coffee
(producers, traders, retailers, researchers, etc.) who share concerns for
this very important aspect of sustainable coffee. We urge anyone to make use
of these criteria in whatever way(s) s/he sees fit. Comments on particular
details are also welcome, and should be sent to us via our Website. For
legal reasons beyond our control, any use of the name "Smithsonian"
or the term "Bird-FriendlyTM"
or reference to them on a commercial product or for commercial activity is
forbidden. In addition, any reference to the National Audubon Society and
the shade criteria for commercial purposes is not allowed.)
This document is a summary of minimum shade
management practices necessary on a coffee plantation for the SMBC to
consider that plantation sustainable. Because coffee is grown under diverse
management systems and climatic and ecological conditions, the criteria have
been designed to be as general as possible. Our field work has focused on
the northern Neotropics and we have limited knowledge or experience with
shade systems in the Old World. Therefore, further research will be required
to extend some of these bio-physical criteria to Old World systems. In
addition, further research is required to develop recommended practices
that, above and beyond the minimally acceptable management practices for
farmers, would enhance the biodiversity of coffee plantations and maintain
socio-cultural benefits of the shade complex.
Coffee is grown under two types of shade:
Rustic shade, which consists of natural forest vegetation, and planted
Rustic shade consists of natural forest
species. Rustic coffee can consist of coffee grown under old growth, or more
commonly, secondary forest. Where additional trees have been planted to
produce useful products, the system is called Traditional Polyculture. The
area of coffee grown under such systems varies from place to place, but,
from the standpoint of bird conservation, the maintenance of such systems is
highly desirable. Two major issues arise: the degree of management and the
potential protected status of forest used for shade. Even in rustic or
traditional systems, shade trees are generally thinned and trimmed to reduce
understory humidity and increase light levels. The SMBC recommends that a
minimum canopy cover of 40% be maintained and that no trimming of epiphytic
plants or hemi-epiphytic vines be conducted on the shade trees. Vines and
unwanted plants on coffee plants, of course, should be removed for
production purposes. We further urge that farm inspectors verify that forest
converted to coffee production does not have any legal protected status.
Species composition of
Planted-shade plantations generally consist
of a backbone of trees which are the predominant species planted to provide
the optimal shade environment for the coffee plant. In New World systems the
most common backbone trees are Inga spp. and, at lower elevation and
latitude sites Erythrina spp. Less common backbone trees are Gliricidia
sepium and Grevillea robusta. From the consideration of
biodiversity conservation, Erythrina and Gliricidia are
unacceptable as backbone species because they are deciduous during the dry
season leaving the "shade" plantation shadeless during a time of
the year when canopy cover for both migrant and resident birds may be most
critical. Grevillea is unacceptable for two reasons. First, it is
non-native and therefore probably supports few native species of arthropods.
Second, although it supports high densities of birds, the diversity is the
lowest of all types surveyed by the SMBC. Additional types of trees
occasionally used as backbone species include Albizia spp. and Pinus
spp. These species support few insectivorous birds and are often
introduced from other regions and are therefore not acceptable. Erythrina,
Grevillea, and Gliricidia are all used by birds--particularly
the flowers of the first two--and are an acceptable part of the canopy at
low density (< 5% canopy cover).
Numerous species of Inga are used for
shade. Individual farms commonly have 3 or more species, each with its own
pattern of flowering phenology. It is important that several species are
used to maximize the period when Inga flowers and fruit are
available. SMBC recommends that, on a given coffee farm, a single species of
Inga does not comprise more than 50% of the Inga trees.
The number of species of birds and other
organisms will increase with increasing diversity of trees in a plantation.
We recommend that no more than 70% of the canopy cover consist of Inga.
For general criterion it is impossible to specify the composition of the
additional trees since this will vary regionally. Future research should
provide the information to develop a list of recommended trees that are of
value to both birds and people for different regions. Coffee plantations can
be ranked by the total number of tree species per hectare, provided that
inspectors are sufficiently well trained in the identification of common
trees of agroforestry systems in the region. The diversity of potential
supplementary shade trees will vary with region (lower on Caribbean islands,
and sites at higher elevations and latitudes). However, we suggest a minimum
of 10 species of trees to qualify for certification as
Shade Cover and Canopy
Biological diversity probably increases with
the amount of canopy cover. However, coffee is not necessarily a full-shade
plant. As a compromise between these considerations, SMBC recommends a
minimum shade cover of 40% at solar noon that can be estimated or measured
with an optical densiometer. The shade cover measurement cannot include that
produced by coffee plants themselves. The shade cover should not be reduced
below the 40% minimum even after pruning. Pruning should be conducted during
the rainy season.
Probably more critical for biodiversity, at
least avian diversity, is the stature of the canopy trees. We recommend that
the backbone shade species be allowed to attain a minimum of 12-15 meters in
height. In the case of newly established farms in transition to full shade
conditions, inspectors should be sensitive to pruning practices that would
prevent trees from achieving these heights.
It is well known that vertical structural
diversity results in increased bird diversity. Therefore, farmers should be
encouraged to plant trees that are shorter and taller than the backbone
shade species. Taller trees can include timber-producing species and shorter
trees can produce fruit, medicines or other products. As a rule of thumb,
lower and higher strata should each total at least 20% shade cover, in
addition to the shade cover provided by the backbone species.
Secondary Plant Diversity:
Epiphytic plants, such as Bromeliads, and
parasitic plants, such as mistletoes, contribute considerably to overall
biological diversity and provide resources for birds. The growth of these
plants on canopy trees should be encouraged. Although the expected amount of
epiphytic growth varies between regions with different climates, we would
recommend that inspectors compare coffee canopies to remnant natural
vegetation or visit farms during periods of pruning to determine if
epiphytic growth is being systematically removed. In addition, pruning
should ideally leave some dead limbs and snags.
Living Fences and
Stream Buffer Zones:
A "living fence" or border strip of
trees and shrubs should be maintained along roadways and other borders to
prevent the desiccation of the understory due to wind. In addition, a strip
of natural second-growth vegetation should be maintained at a width of 5
meters from each side of small streams and 10 meters along rivers.
In addition to the above specific
considerations, inspectors should have a sheet with schematic diagrams
showing alternative structures of coffee plantations. One such system,
modified from a system developed for Mexico, is attached.
We recommend that farms that have a structure
that resemble the diverse commercial polyculture, traditional polyculture or
rustic systems be certified as bird-friendly. The less diverse commercial
polycultures, characterized by low stature or low species richness, will not
be acceptable as bird-friendly.
Café Canopy coffees are sourced through
Elan Organic Coffee Company whose green coffee beans have
been certified as "Bird Friendly" by the
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
Independent, third party
certification of organic food systems has been the foundation of domestic
and international organic food trade. The evolution of this
verification effort, which documents the authenticity of organic farming and
various subsequent levels of handling, will become manadatory as a result of
implementation of the "Organic Foods Production Act of 1990" (OFDPA).
This act administered by the USDA requires certification of all products
labeled as organic in the United States.
International is a private, professional service corporation developed
specifically for the purpose of verifying the authenticity of food, fiber
and other products which are organically grown under a management policy of
sustainable agriculture; and which are handled under goals preserving the integrity
created in the organic commodity.
Fair Trade guarantees farmers a fair wage for their harvest.
Why is it needed? Many small coffee farmers receive
prices for their coffee that are less than the costs
of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty
and debt. With little or no income between harvest
months, farmers are usually forced to sell their next
crop in advance to exploitative middlemen, who pay far
below the harvest's value. The farmer's situation is
exacerbated by the fact that the world market price is
extremely volatile, frequently experiencing steep
price drops to the farmers when overproduction causes
world coffee surpluses. With few other options for income,
such drastic price drops cause many coffee farmers to
lose their farms and become hopelessly in debt.
encourages family farmers in developing countries to
get organized, start their own export cooperatives and
jump over middlemen, selling their coffee directly to
importers here in the US. Through direct, equitable
trade, farmers can double and even triple their net incomes
from their coffee, which, for most, means the
difference between losing the farm versus staying on
the land, improving family health, keeping their kids
in school, and reinvesting in the quality of their
coffee and their farms. At its core, Fair Trade is a
business-based approach to the issue of Third World
poverty alleviation and grassroots empowerment.
Fair Trade is
also good for the environment. Small coffee farmers
are typically the most effective stewards of the land.
Most grow under the shade of the forest canopy,
protecting the forest and habitat for migratory
songbirds. And approximately 80-85% of Fair Trade farmers do
not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their
fields. TransFair USA TransFair USA, a non-profit agency, is
the only organization providing independent, third-party
certification of Fair Trade products in the US. TransFair
promotes mutually-beneficial relationships between farmers
and coffee companies, and educates consumers about
international trade and economic development. Through
regular visits to Fair Trade farmer cooperatives, and
partnerships with participating coffee companies in the US,
TransFair guarantees that farmers who produce Fair Trade
Certified products have received a decent living wage. By
monitoring trade from crop to cup, TransFair guarantees that
Fair Trade Certified products were grown and traded
responsibly. Consumers who want to support Fair Trade must
look for coffee packages that bare TransFair's Fair Trade
Certified label. Over 60 coffee companies across the US now
offer Fair Trade Certified coffee, and the list is growing
every day. Although coffee is currently the only Fair Trade
Certified product available in the US, Fair Trade Certified
tea and chocolate will be available in the next few years.