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152. Coffee for water

Yesterday I reflected on the idea of “water for coffee.”  Today: “coffee for water.”

We all know that water is important for the quality of your coffee.  But what does your coffee do to improve the quality of water in the coffeelands?  As it turns out, a lot.

PROCAFE estimates that El Salvador's coffee forests -- half the total national forest area -- recharge water tables at a rate of 500 cubic meters of water per hour.

After conservation, there is arguably nothing better for regulating the water cycle in the coffeelands than shade coffee.  In El Salvador, where deforestation has left the country with less forest cover than any of its Central American neighbors, the national coffee research and extension agency PROCAFE estimates that coffee farms comprise half the country’s total forest area and recharge underground aquifers at a rate of 500 cubic meters per hour.  Coffee agroforestry also helps to reduce soil erosion that can lead to sedimentation and reduced water quality.

In Honduras, coffee is so beneficial for water quality that it has become a primary strategy of local water user committees responsible for regulating water quality.  On a recent trip through the southern departments of Lempira, Intibucá and La Paz, I met with water user committees that are promoting (and investing their own resources in) coffee nurseries and technical assistance in coffee agroforestry as a water resource management strategy.


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