Coffee plantations of the Scolel'te program and its impacts

Coffee plantations of the Scolel'te program and its impacts

The state of Chiapas has a great richness in terrestrial ecosystems. Of its entire extension, at least 57% of its surface are forest areas (CONAFOR, 2016). According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography in Mexico (2015), 95% of its population works in the agricultural sector, which is predominantly dedicated to small-scale agriculture and grazing.

Coffee is the agricultural product with the greatest presence in the fields of Chiapas and is the first national level as a coffee producing state. For its part, Mexico is the tenth largest coffee exporter worldwide (SAGARPA, 2016).

Coffee, for families in rural communities in the state of Chiapas, represents the most important input in their livelihood. That is why the Scolel'te program works with an agroforestry system for carbon capture, called Cafetal Mejorado Tropical (AF-CAFÉ-TRO1). 

This aims to take advantage of all the spaces that are in the coffee plantations, by planting trees of commercial value, such as cedar and mahogany, fruit trees, other non-timber trees (such as palms), in such a way that can improve shade for coffee cultivation. In the short term, fruits and other non-timber products can be obtained; in the long term, wood for local use and/or sale, which contributes to improving the income of participating families and their food security.

The system is designed to be implemented at heights ranging from 600 meters to 1,700 meters above sea level. With this system, up to 39 tons of carbon per hectare can be captured, which means extra income from growing sustainable coffee under shade.

Sustainable shade-grown coffee is an important ally to curb deforestation and forest degradation, as well as contributing to conserving biodiversity. According to the Guide to Good Practices for Sustainable Coffee in Mexico, shade-grown coffee uses more than 70 different tree species.

In addition, he points out that coffee plantations are very varied (up to 500 species of useful flora), contribute to pollination and conserve fauna. The presence of bats is identified as an indicator of the contribution of the coffee plantation in the conservation of biodiversity.

The Scolel'te Program works with 138 hectares, under the Tropical Improved Coffee Plantation system, in the regions of: Selva, Sierra Madre, Ocote, Chol and Tseltal. We collaborate with a total of 31 communities that grow parchment coffee for consumption and sale. Four of these communities in the Selva region are part of the Social Solidarity Society SPOSEL (Society of Organic Producers of the Lacandon Jungle) for the trade of certified organic shade-grown coffee under the fair trade scheme; as well as three other communities in the Sierra Madre sell organic coffee.

The sales potential for parchment coffee for these communities ranges from approximately $230 dollars per cultivated hectare. This, together with payments for carbon capture, contribute to diversifying the sources of income of families in rural communities that participate in the Scolel'te Program.