With its mineral-rich volcanic mountain soil and cool microclimates, the high-altitude district of Jalapa in Guatemala has all the necessary ingredients to produce high-quality coffee. For the smallholder farmers who grow coffee here, however, the natural conditions they’ve counted on for generations are quickly eroding due to climate change.
“Where there are no trees, when it rains a lot, it causes a landslide and sweeps all the plants away,” says third-generation coffee grower and Las Brisas cooperative member Willy Solares Aguilar, whose farm is in Fraijanes, a city in the Jalapa district.
To protect his farm, and his family’s livelihood, Don Willy participates in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, which works to create long-term, sustainable coffee quality by building direct relationships with local growers. It was through the AAA program that Don Willy was introduced to Nespresso’s agroforestry program and discovered the symbiotic benefits of companion planting; specifically, sowing local fruit and timber tree varieties inside and outside his coffee farm to improve the productivity of his coffee plants, and planting bamboo to help conserve water resources.
“We have a wide variety of trees,” adds Don Willy, who has been actively involved in the Nespresso agroforestry program since it was introduced to Guatemala. “[By planting trees] we are contributing towards a better ecosystem and better pollination of the coffee.”
The Nespresso agroforestry program in Jalapa is part of the Swiss coffee company’s global climate change resilience strategy. This program was designed specifically for Nespresso by PUR Projet, an organization that is the principal architect of insetting—a type of carbon emissions offset integrating socio-economic and environmental projects within a company’s supply chain. Today, Nespresso’s operational carbon footprint has been inset by the program.
“By planting these trees, we are allowing regeneration, preservation of biodiversity, and improved productivity of quality coffee,” says PUR Projet agronomist Sara Morales, who helps local AAA farmers achieve their sustainability goals by providing technical assistance, including agroforestry training. As part of this program, farmers plant tree saplings on the slopes where coffee plants grow.
The firsthand experience, says Morales, helps farmers better visualize how creating barriers with trees will help prevent soil erosion, a major problem plaguing Jalapa coffee farms. Growers also learn how the organic matter produced by trees enriches the soil, and how the shade created by trees helps shield coffee plants from direct sunlight, heat, and extreme weather events related to climate change.
Since 2014, Guatemalan farmers participating in the Nespresso PUR Projet agroforestry program have planted 575,000 trees (overall Nespresso has planted 3.5 million trees in Colombia, Ethiopia, and Guatemala until 2018). Thanks to their efforts, the stable, nutrient-rich land in Jalapa available for coffee farming continues to grow, as does the area’s biodiversity—more trees means increased habitat for birds and other wildlife.
For participating AAA farmers like Don Willy, a major personal benefit of planting trees is the special premium from the Nespresso AAA program for producing high-quality coffee. In addition, Don Willy and his wife Maria anticipate earning extra income from the fruit, such as avocados, that will be harvested from the new trees. They’re also growing a more sustainable future for their family’s next generation by planting cypress trees that one day will produce valuable wood.
To Don Willy, though, the Nespresso AAA agroforestry program means more than securing his own family’s future. As a grower passionate about preserving his region’s rich coffee culture, he’s determined to help other farmers follow his lead, encouraging them to incorporate Nespresso agroforestry practices on their farms.
“If we are all involved, soon this whole area will be full of trees, both fruit and forest trees,” says Don Willy, who works tirelessly to promote the quality and sustainability benefits of Nespresso’s AAA program and the agroforestry initiative.
Due to his motivational efforts over the past five years, the number of farmers in the Las Brisas cooperative and participating in Nespresso’s AAA program has grown steadily.
“The trees are a new beginning for us,” Don Willy says. “Birds and wildlife have come back to my farm, and also to the river. Nespresso is teaching us to protect the planet. I’m sure my family and I will be producing coffee for many years to come.”