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Climate Action 2011-2012

steps to sustainability

steps to sustainability sustainable agriculture 126 climateactionprogramme.org © Mark Sweep Coffee production uses vast quantities of water and causes extensive pollution. By Vera Espindola Rafael, Field Development Coordinator for Latin America and Britta Wyss Bisang, Standards & Certification Manager for UTZ Certified Agriculture is expected to be highly vulnerable to climate change; however, at the same time, agriculture is an important contributor in creating the conditions for climate change. Through the promotion of good agricultural and environmental practices, such as the prohibition of deforestation of native forests, correct and/ or reduced use of fertiliser and the planting of shade trees, farmers can contribute to the mitigation of climate change. By implementing the UTZ Certified Code of Conduct, coffee producers already positively address a variety of water and climate issues. However, acknowledging that climate change is a threat to coffee producers and coffee production worldwide, it is appropriate to look into further measures to address the problem. Coffee production, like agriculture in general, uses vast quantities of water, and also causes extensive pollution, primarily by introducing ‘non-point-source’ contaminants into the waste flow. Runoff from agricultural fields often contains eroded soil, fertilisers, animal manure, or pesticides that together form a major source of water pollution. Enhancing sustainable energy in the Central American coffee sector Decreasing availability and pollution of waters is a subject of major global concern. Coffee proCessing: one of the main ghg emission sourCes Background research has been commissioned by UTZ Certified to identify the possibilities for including climate change aspects in certification. The research shows key climate change drivers responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the coffee industry and provides valuable starting points from which to address them. The key drivers are: deforestation; land use change and degradation of land; land management practices; and processing of coffee. These results are also supported by research commissioned by the large coffee roaster Tchibo, looking into the distribution of carbon emissions along the coffee supply chain (see Figure 1 overleaf). Coffee processing is an energy-intensive process and a potential source of contamination. Coffee waste – i.e. pulp – and waste water that leave the coffee processing units are rich in organic matter and are damaging to natural water bodies if not treated correctly. Furthermore, a first assessment carried out in Central America by UTZ Certified’s partner Solidaridad showed that one of the factors in coffee production that has a negative impact on climate is

Figure 1. Share of carbon footprint along the coffee chain. Source: Tchibo research the methane produced in the fermentation process. Methane is a much more damaging GHG than CO 2 . Challenges from Coffee proCessing After harvesting the coffee, the ripe berries need to be processed as soon as possible. The coffee beans must be removed from the fruit and dried before they can be roasted. This can be done either by the dry or wet method. The wet method is more commonly used in the majority of the coffee producing countries, such as Nicaragua and other countries in Central America. It requires the use of specific equipment and substantial quantities of water. When properly done, it ensures that the intrinsic qualities of the coffee beans are better preserved, producing a green coffee which is homogeneous and has few defective beans. The process of extracting the beans from coffee cherries generates enormous volumes of waste in the form of pulp and residual water. The waste water has a high content of organic matter and acidity. The waste water in coffee has chemical oxygen demand (COD) values that vary between 18,000 and 30,000 milligrams per litre. The oxidation of the organic matter in the water is done by means of microflora of bacteria that feed on the matter and consume the oxygen in the water. In case of a substantial discharge of waste water into a natural water body, typically a river, the oxygen in the river is depleted, thereby choking and destroying the aquatic fauna and flora, such as fish, crabs, micro-organisms and various river plants. Discharges from coffee ‘beneficios’ (processing plants) are a major source of river pollution in northern Latin America. The Guatemala-based Instituto Centroamericano de Investigación y Tecnología Industrial has estimated that over a six-month period during 1988, the processing of 547,000 tonnes of coffee in Central America generated 1.1 million tonnes of pulp, and polluted 110,000 cubic metres of water per day, resulting in discharges to the region’s waterways equivalent to raw sewage dumping from a city of four million people. stringent requirements and professional development UTZ Certified is convinced that increasing sustainability should also reinforce the independent position of farmers. This is why farmers are trained in the professional development of their agricultural practice and operational management. This improves the quality of their products and allows them to produce higher volumes at lower costs. This in turn enables the farmers to negotiate a better price for a better product and to improve their standard of living. Moreover, farmers who work with UTZ Certified in the global marketplace receive a premium for their crop, and pay nothing for taking part in the programme. By working with a strict Code of Conduct, UTZ Certified sets stringent requirements for the farmers when it comes to the sustainable growing of coffee, cocoa and tea. Farmers are trained in the area of business skills, labour conditions and environmental management, and their operational management is checked by independent third parties. The UTZ Certified tracking system subsequently guarantees that the raw materials have actually been grown and harvested in a responsible manner. projeCt on Coffee waste and biogas Using coffee waste water to produce biogas and then use the energy within the coffee supply chain appears to be a viable option to consider. Methane is generated from coffee waste by anaerobic bacteria. Methane gas can be used for various purposes; specifically in coffee processing, it has been proposed to use it to generate electrical energy in a dual fuel setup, substituting up to 70 per cent of the diesel used in the generator of the pulping machine. It can also be used to generate a substantial amount of the heat needed to dry the processed coffee, or can substitute other fuels such as the ones used for kitchen stoves. The goal of the project Energy from Coffee Waste in Central America is to use the coffee waste water to produce biogas in a controlled way, thereby avoiding the emission of methane from fermentation of coffee waste, and then use the biogas produced as an energy source. To achieve this goal, the project is focused on building experience of the optimisation and standardisation of the coffee waste bioreactors and digesters under the prevailing conditions in Central America. Based on the findings of the project, the plan is to later make the technology available to a large number of coffee processors. table 1. produCtion and pollution for the three types of produCer Est. green Est. biogas coffee production production (m 3 per day) Large exporter 1,361-2,268 2,000 Co-operative, central mill 27.21 30-40 Co-operative, smallholders 11.47 (average) 3-4 127 climateactionprogramme.org