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What the CRS Coffeelands Program means for our research in coffee

“How are you celebrating International Coffee Day?” 

As Michael mentioned last Thursday, at CRS we’re celebrating by launching a global coffee program.  This initiative will take our hard won experience and leverage the relationships that we have created in the private and public sectors to help create a coffee industry that is built on empowered, profitable smallholder coffee farmers who grow coffee in ways that benefit the environment, while providing clean water downstream.

So – what does this mean?  From my point of view, as the resident scientist (and current PRM pupil) on the Coffeelands blog, I think our approach to research has been unique.

CRS has always taken risks and incorporated strategic, programmatic research within our coffee projects.  We have recognized that we don’t know all the answers and have sought to partner with others who can provide critical information to help improve our projects and disseminate the learning to a wide range of stakeholders.  At the same time, we  bring the voice and perspective of farmers and farmer organizations to researchers and scientists. I’m excited at the prospect of continuing to work with our partners to build upon our recent collaborations in applied research:

Coffee Under Pressure: a partnership with CIAT that predicts the impacts of climate change on the suitability of coffee growing regions in Mesoamerica.

The Colombia Sensory Trial: working with CIAT, World Coffee Research and the sensory analysis center at Kansas State University, this project provided an objective look at the cup qualities of Caturra and Castillo of the 2014/15 harvest.

Blue Harvest: with CATIE, we developed a map that showed where the coffeelands directly impact people’s drinking water in Central America.  Conservatively, we estimate that over 9 million people obtain their drinking water from watersheds that are dominated by coffee farms.

Each of these collaborative research projects represents a moment when we mobilized and responded to a discrete, emerging opportunity in a specific context.

What can we do when our horizon becomes global and we can marshal a host of research partners and private sector allies?

Can we replicate the sensory trial on a global level, providing an objective look at cup quality for the new, emerging Catimores/Sarchimores against traditional varieties with reputations for high quality?

Can we map out the future of coffee against a changing climate?  Replicate CUP for every single coffee producing region and use it for the basis for creating mitigation plans?

Can we help find models of wet mill waste water treatment that are economically accessible for small holders which ensure quality coffee and protect water resources?

Can we identify models of inclusive business relationships for small holder farmers that appropriately value their labor?

Can we finally bring incentives for environmental services to coffee farms?

I’d like to think we can do all of these and more.  At this point, we don’t have much of a choice.

I’m looking forward to being part of this effort and to working with all of you to help make coffee a crop that is more equitable, for everyone, everywhere, forever.


– Kraig Kraft

*(More PRM conversations to come next week)*

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