Rio+20 Business Focus: Adopting Climate Smart Agriculture for Sustainable Development (June 5)

Politicians make the policy. But it’s often left to business to implement it. For this reason RIoPlus Business is featuring submissions from business across the globe in the lead up to Rio+20.

The aim is to demonstrate how Sustainable Development is becoming a reality on every continent, country and city.

In this article, Joanne Sonenshine, Director Food, Agriculture and Freshwater at Conservation International takes a look at the next greatest challenge for sustainable development; securing agriculture input necessary to feed a growing population.

Combined with carbon sequestration programs and forest preservation, the approach of integrating climate resilient investments within farming is part of a growing suite of policies and practices known as Climate Smart Agriculture.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has defined Climate Smart Agriculture as “agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) while enhancing the achievement of national food security and development goals.”

Climate Smart Agriculture as “agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) while enhancing the achievement of national food security and development goals (© Conservation International - photo by Miguel Angel de la Cueva))

At Conservation International (CI), we believe the most effective solutions to these and other complex environmental issues are found through collaboration.

One company that has developed a response to this challenge is CI’s longstanding partner, the Starbucks Coffee Company.

Starbucks has an extensive history working to address environmental, social and economic issues in the regions where they source coffee not only because is it the right thing to do for our planet, but also because they see the business benefit in doing so.

In 2007 Starbucks and CI renewed our collaboration to consider how investments in environmental and social guidelines known as Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices ensure a productive source of coffee for years to come and assist communities that support coffee growth.

Protecting and restoring

By witnessing the encroaching affects of climate change in coffee growing regions around the world, building on the success of the C.A.F.E. Practices program, CI and Starbucks took the next step by making investments in climate adaptation programs that help farming communities improve production and increase income while withstanding climate impacts.

This includes protecting existing forests and helping to restore degraded landscapes to promote mutually beneficial forest conservation and the sequestration of carbon.

In Chiapas, Mexico, Starbucks and CI are helping to improve coffee production, conserve and restore natural habitat and facilitate community economic development.

The scheme encouraged farmers to use sustainable farming techniques, while offering traning and a dependable buyer for their products (© Conservation International - Cristina Mittermeier/iLCP)

As far back as 1998, smallholder coffee farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, were already practicing the eco-friendly method of growing coffee in the shade of healthy forests and their farms formed a natural protective buffer around some of the region’s most valuable habitats.

In particular, they bordered El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, a 300,000-acre Eden that is home to wildcats, tapir, monkeys and untold other species, all coexisting within the rich flora of cloud and rain forests.

Valuing ecosystems

Starbucks was quick to see the importance and value of protecting El Triunfo and similar areas worldwide that bordered prized coffee-growing farms.

Together we launched a 3-year program encouraging coffee growers in Chiapas to continue these and other sustainable farming practices.

In return, farmers have received technical assistance from CI’s field staff and Starbucks became a dependable buyer of the farmers’ beans.

Building on this rich history of engagement in the region, and similar experiences working together in Aceh and Sumatra, Indonesia, CI is investing in a similar program in the Atlantic Forest state of Minas Gerais, near Manhuaçu (one of the existing Starbucks sourcing areas and where half of all Brazilian coffee is grown) where together we plan to analyze current production under various climate scenarios, identify climate resilient farming practices and support communities across the area.

Starbucks is joining CI at Rio+20 to share these experiences and to inform the strategies of other stakeholders to meet the challenges we face today and 40 years from now.

By coming together amidst these conversations we hope that the 9 billion people of tomorrow’s world are provided with all of the opportunity possible for continued success and sustainability.

Joanne Sonenshine, Director Food, Agriculture and Freshwater at Conservation International

This article is part of a series commissioned by the Rio Conventions for their RioPlus Business project.


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