Indonesia Sees the Climate Benefits of Shade-Grown Coffee

A Sumatran woman picks coffee beans during annual harvest in Indonesia. Many farms there participate in the Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practices program.

A Sumatran woman picks coffee beans during annual harvest in Indonesia. Many farms there participate in the Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practices program.

Many of us rarely go a day without a cup of coffee. But did you know that the way some coffee is grown can contribute to climate change? In some places, tropical rainforests are converted into sun-grown coffee plantations; the burning and clearing of tropical forests is a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions.

For Indonesia, coffee is an important export commodity, and global demand increases every year. Indonesia currently produces about 600,000 tons of coffee per year, and more than 80 percent of this comes from traditional smallholder plantations — such as those seen in the Takengon district (also known as the Gayo Highlands), in central Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

In June, I had the opportunity to visit coffee plantations in this district, whose major income comes from coffee farming. On this visit, I also helped journalists and television stations cover a conservation coffee initiative carried out by CI. CI, in partnership with Starbucks, is working with 225 local coffee farmers in order to encourage best practices for conservation coffee farming and sustainable land-use management — supporting coffee production while preserving natural forest and mitigating climate change.

Through these activities, farmers improve their land treatment and stop expanding to new lands. In addition, planting shade trees among coffee plants can help to produce better quality coffee and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Our research on coffee and forest systems in Indonesia has demonstrated that shade coffee systems serve a critical role in combating climate change. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, CI has conducted a study showing that sustainable coffee plantations with better ratios of shade cover in the Gayo Highlands can store up to 235.40 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per hectare per year. While this is significantly less than that stored by primary rainforests, it does represent a significant contribution to carbon storage. This information helps us identify which ecosystems in the region store the most carbon and should therefore be the highest priorities for conservation efforts.

Fachruddin (Rudy) Mangunjaya is Publication Coordinator at CI-Indonesia.


  1. Steven Earl Salmony says

    Why would leaders and followers in a single generation choose not to speak out loudly, clearly and often in a time when a paradise is being turned into an inferno? Can malignant narcissism, pathological arrogance, extreme foolishness and outrageous avarice of a tiny dishonest and immoral minority of the human family be at least partially responsible for such an intolerable situation? How else can such a thing as a colossal human-driven extinction event occur so fast, before our eyes, with ‘the brightest and best’, “the smartest guys in the room” leading the way? Are self-proclaimed masters of the universe in possession of critical decision-making authority at the top of the global political economy leading a not-so-great generation down a primrose path, come what may? Are power and greed mongers shouting everywhere “greed is good” and acting on what they have proclaimed to be their ‘inalienable rights’ to perpetrate some unimaginable sort of global ecological wreckage without a word being spoken for 40 years. Perhaps we are witnessing not only the sixth extinction event, the first such event to be precipitated by a species, but also the sight of something unthinkable: silence killing the world.

    It is never too late to stand up and be counted or to do the right thing, I suppose.

  2. Coffee says

    I heard Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world. Coffee is produced largely in Sumatra. Other areas producing coffee in Indonesia include Sulawesi, Flores, Bali, Lampung, and Bengkulu.

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