In my post “Coffee farms and carbon sequestration,” I discussed the potential of carbon credits in helping coffee farmers earn extra income, and provided some statistics and references on carbon sequestration on coffee farms in and other tropical agroforestry systems.
As it turns out, Rainforest Alliance (RA) will be adding a carbon module to their certification for farms (coffee, and presumably other crops they certify). This announcement was first made in May at their Sustainable Coffee Breakfast at the SCAA annual conference in Minneapolis. The details are not final, but here is what RA’s Gretchen Ruethling explained to me regarding RA’s past experience and future plans:
We are working with other organizations to help farmers get paid for providing environmental services such as storing carbon and protecting watersheds and biodiversity. The Rainforest Alliance is a registered verifier for leading carbon offset programs including the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance and the Chicago Climate Exchange. We have verified carbon offsets on coffee farms through projects organized by Plan Vivo in Mexico. We verified an ambitious project in Aceh, Indonesia developed by Fauna & Flora International that will reduce deforestation on 750,000 hectares of rainforest. We verified a reforestation project in the highly endangered Atlantic Forest of Brazil as a carbon offset for Jacques Vabre, a coffee brand in France. (That project is managed by a coalition of Brazilian NGOs and led by the Nature Conservancy.)
We are working to offer more incentives to coffee farmers to encourage them to plant more trees. One exciting idea is developing a system that would allow coffee companies to buy carbon from farmers along with their coffee beans – through the existing supply chains. Companies could pay a small carbon premium. In order for this to work, we need a simple, low-cost yet rigorous and highly credible method to estimate the carbon on a coffee farm and verify that it remains year after year. This could be done by auditing the carbon as part of the annual farm inspection by members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network.
I’m thrilled RA is pursuing this concept — it’s a win-win-win situation for the farmer, biodiversity, and the planet.