Global Programs

In Puerto Rico, mountain coffee farmers innovate with climate-smart practices

From left: PROCAFE member Erik Torres and Marcus Laws, Café del Futuro Project Director. 

16 coffee farmers in Puerto Rico’s mountainous region have received the first economic incentives granted by NCBA CLUSA and Productores de CafĂ© de Puerto Rico (PROCAFÉ) as part of CafĂ© del Futuro, a pilot project that began in 2023 with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities.

The program is working to transform agriculture in Puerto Rico through sustainable practices that improve the quality and yield of coffee, and connections to new markets. The incentives were granted to coffee farmers for implementing climate-smart practices on their farms to mitigate the effects of climate change in coffee planting in seven municipalities in Puerto Rico’s mountain region, including Adjuntas, Maricao, Jayuya, Lares, Sabana Grande, Utuado, and Yauco. The total incentives granted to coffee farmers exceeded USD$32,000.

So far under Café del Futuro, more than 250 agreements have been signed with local coffee producers; 229 environmental assessments have been approved; and 162,000 coffee seedlings have been planted alongside 8,000 shade and timber trees on 600 acres. The project aims to plant at least 2.75 million trees.

Coffee cultivation is the main source of direct income for the more than 2,400 coffee farmers in the mountainous region of Puerto Rico. In 2017, a resurgence of coffee cultivation on the island was predicted, exceeding production of more than 100,000 quintals per year. However, hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated the industry with 80% of coffee plantations destroyed and more than 18 million coffee trees lost. With this impact, coffee farmers in the mountainous region have had to innovate with more resilient practices in the face of the effects of climate change in the agricultural sector.

In response, a group of coffee producers from the mountainous region of the island created the nonprofit organization PROCAFÉ in 2018 to inject economic vitality into the agricultural sector; and promote the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of coffee for the benefit of coffee-growing families and communities in the mountains; and advancing socioeconomic sustainability and climate change mitigation with innovative and resilient practices for the benefit of present and future generations of Puerto Ricans.

“We need to empower the new generation of Puerto Rican coffee farmers through climate-smart practices in planting, growing and harvesting coffee.” – Iris Jannette RodrĂ­guez, PROCAFÉ

“PROCAFÉ was created by and for coffee growers. We need to empower Puerto Rican coffee farmers and the new generation of coffee farmers through climate-smart practices in planting, growing, and harvesting coffee,” PROCAFÉ President Iris Jannette RodrĂ­guez said. “The organization is made up of more than 600 Puerto Rican coffee farmers and is committed to fostering the growth of the coffee sector, addressing the pressing challenges posed by environmental changes, and strengthening the resilience of the coffee community with an innovative vision.”

Since its founding, PROCAFÉ has become a central player in the recovery of the agricultural sector with its focus on the re-establishment and development of the coffee sector, plantations, technical assistance with a cooperative vision, and promoting climate-smart and sustainable practices for the resilient growth of the coffee industry in Puerto Rico.


Future Plans and Smart-Climate Practices

Faced with the threat of the effects of climate change on coffee cultivation on the island, PROCAFÉ is the first and only organization that has positioned itself as a leader in promoting sustainable practices among coffee growers in the cultivation of the different varieties of Arabica and rust-resistant coffee, intending to make them resistant to climate change by capitalizing on innovative and climate-smart agricultural techniques that benefit the most vulnerable of 2,000 coffee farmers in Puerto Rico’s mountain region.

The CafĂ© del Futuro project has been implemented since 2023 for four years with a $15 million grant that was awarded to NCBA CLUSA by the USDA pilot program, Partnerships for Climate Smart Communications, with PROCAFÉ as the tip of the spear. Of this allocation, more than $8 million is destined directly to 2,000 coffee growers in the Mountain Region in terms of incentives and planting material. About $5 million of the total funds go toward the financial incentives of $500 coffee farmer to adopt climate-smart farming practices on their farms. Another $3 million subsidizes the costs of coffee trees, shade trees, and technology to switch from solar farms to agroforestry with shade systems, promoting environmental resilience and coffee quality by revitalizing existing farms and making them more sustainable in the face of the effects of climate change. The remaining funds are earmarked for technical assistance, to quantify and verify carbon emissions from the implementation of sustainable practices, and to open up new coffee markets, including voluntary carbon markets.

CafĂ© del Futuro is implemented by NCBA CLUSA, the USDA grant recipient responsible for opening new niche markets for specialty coffee. The project is also supported by the Agricultural Experimental Station of the University of Puerto Rico MayagĂŒez Campus (UPR-EEA), offering scientific support and developing methodologies to quantify the carbon footprint; the League of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico, facilitating education and access to the cooperative market for coffee farmers; and SustainCERT, the entity that sets global standards in speed, accuracy, and quality of carbon credits, and the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are very excited to be part of the CafĂ© del Futuro project and to be able to work toward the sustainable development of coffee farmers in Puerto Rico,” said Christian Rivera-Goyco, assistant researcher at the Agricultural Experimental Station of the University of Puerto Rico. “These climate-smart conservation practices are a powerful tool that will allow farmers to improve their farms’ resilience to climate change, reduce their dependence on external inputs, and improve coffee bean quality. All this is accompanied by a reduction in the carbon footprint associated with coffee production at the farm level.”

“These climate-smart conservation practices are a powerful tool that will allow farmers to improve their farms’ resilience to climate change, reduce their dependence on external inputs, and improve coffee bean quality.” – Christian Rivera-Goyco, University of Puerto Rico

As part of the project’s goals, CafĂ© del Futuro aims to create a ripple effect to strengthen the economic performance of coffee farmers through access to lucrative activities and sustainable markets that take carbon emissions into account and pursue sustainable continuous carbon capture practices by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In alignment with global policies and climate action objectives worldwide, the project positions Puerto Rican coffee at the forefront of the climate-smart commodity sector, bolsters the cooperative business model, and encourage community ownership of the coffee sector.

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