Our conservation manifesto is fiercely flexible and it is next to impossible for us to keep posting online about the kinds of discussions that are ongoing about peoples' ideas of conserving biodiversity on their coffee farms. This is a project in itself - a beautifully messy and complex one that pulls together collaborations with all sorts of people and integration of ideas around all sorts of knowledge (traditional ecological and modern scientific). We will try to describe this better as we go. For now, the conservation farming practices outlined below are for us, a starting point. Does this sound sufficiently honest to you? If not, feel free to write to us at [email protected]
(1) Conserving trees
Conserving native trees on coffee farms is at the heart of our conservation strategy. We believe that a diverse and abundant network of endemic tree species is critical to enabling a dynamic biodiversity- rich ecosystem. To enable conservation, we will adopt the following practices:
Canopy structure and shade regulation
Canopy structure is critical to increased biodiversity. An increase in the shade canopy and structure of shade trees leads to increased biological diversity, especially bird diversity. To enhance the biodiversity value of our shade trees, we commit to the following practices:
Shade Canopy: Maintain a shade canopy of at least 60% for Robusta and 75% for Arabica as measured by an optical densiometer
Shade regulation: For the time being, we will restrict regulating shade by thinning or trimming of tree branches for at least two years. During this period, we will discuss and devise a plan for shade regulation for future years, which may include parameters such as reducing the height at which to thin branches.
Structural diversity: To increase the structural diversity of trees within the conservation area, we will allow most shade trees to attain a minimum height of 25 metres but also manage taller trees, shorter trees and shrubs.
Species composition and diversity enhances the overall ecosystem balance and we are proud to bring this about through the following principle:
Tree density: Maintain a density of at least 100 trees per acre.
Tree diversity: Maintain a diversity of at least 20 tree species per acre of the conservation area. Restrict the use of dominant trees for shade purpose and maintain a wide range of species. Any given tree species should not constitute more than 20% of the number of trees in an acre within the conservation area. These trees include eucalyptus (Eucalyptus oblique), silver oak (Grevillea robusta), mangium (Acacia mangium), and black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) and other exotic. Tree species that constitute cultivated crop will not be considered as desirable shade trees, including areca nut, oil palm, banana, coconut and rubber. Exotic trees, if required will be limited to the sides of roads and boundaries.
Compementary plants: Epiphytic plants provide rich resources for a host of insect, bird and mammal species. The growth of such plants should be encouraged and they should not be systematically removed from shade trees. During removal of undergrowth, the sapling of select tree species will be retained for the purpose of a plant nursery.
(2) Soil conservation
Protecting soil quality is absolutely integral to long-term health of coffee and environment. A number of steps can be taken to maintain soil health and prevent erosion. We will analyse our soil quality and analyse how we can reduce our use of chemicals to create a balanced soil constituency. Specify parameters
For areas under the conservation programme, groundcover will be maintained to prevent erosion. Removal of plants and weeds will be selective to those that compete with coffee and blanket de-weeding will be restricted to once a year. Planting of select species for groundcover will be considered to curb the growth of invasive weeds. Use of weedicides will be prohibite
(3) Chemical use
For all participating farms, agro-chemicals of all kinds is restricted. We will not use chemical sprays and applications to control pest and disease outbreaks. Alternative methods such as berry borer and pheromone traps, neem-based applications and manual tracing will be used to control outbreaks. We recognise that the most effective way to control pests and diseases is to maintain a balanced ecosystem with diverse and abundant natural predators and controls. We recognise that excessive use of chemical fertilisers can damage soil quality. Hence, we will only use organic fertilizers.
To maintain integrity in the chain of custody, complete traceability will be encouraged from berry to cup. Coffee growers will ensure that berries harvested from the conservation area will be handed over to Black Baza Coffee without mixing of berries from other parts of the estate. Black Baza Coffee will then ensure traceability of each farmers’ coffee right through the process of roasting to direct sales. Our commitment to traceability is because we want to deliver the promise of integrity to our consumers.
(5) Protection of natural ecosystems and wildlife habitats
Coffee farms host an amazing mosaic of natural ecosystems and microhabitats for rare and endemic plant and wildlife species. Through this programme, we will identify such areas on the entire farm and develop a plan to conserve them. These natural ecosystems would include rocky areas, streams and waterfalls and uncultivated and fallow areas. Habitats on the farm with frequent wildlife sightings will also be protected.
(6) Water Conservation
The conservation of water is essential to both the coffee plantation and natural ecosystem. We will first identify water sources on the entire farm, including streams, rivers, water tanks, natural ponds and swamps and wetlands and then devise steps to protect them.
Regulating water use for coffee processing
Water can be conserved by reducing the amount of water used during processing or pulping coffee. We will first monitor water consumption and then decide how water consumption can be reduced. We will also commit to exploring opportunities for recycling and treating our wastewater through non-chemical processes.
(7) Restoring Ecosystems
Areas within the farm that have been degraded either due to intensified cultivation or related activities will be identified and in collaboration with the grower, a plan will be established to restore the ecosystem either to its original state or integrated within the existing farm. Restoration may include actions to prevent soil erosion, planting vegetative and tree cover, improving soil quality through analyses and restricting causes of continued degradation.
(8) New areas of production
New areas of coffee production that have been acquired through conversion of forests of any description will not be integrated into this programme. New areas for cultivation must be jointly agreed upon through debate and discussion between coffee growers and Black Baza Coffee Co.