Coffee, Climate Change, a Continuous Cycle of Poverty

When examining the conditions of poverty in Latin America, the connections between poverty and coffee production are rather apparent. Coffee production is suitable in the region and it has generated massive amounts of revenue for the region. Much of the world relies on coffee grown in Latin America and massive multinational corporations–such as Starbucks and Nespresso– invest heavily in the local coffee plantations. However, despite the vibrant industry, there is also a less glamorous side to this industry. adidas yeezy shoesadidas yeezy 350 boost v2 oreoadidas originals storeadidas yeezy sneakersadidas online storeadidas yeezy foam runner onyxadidas yeezy boostadidas yeezy 350 boostadidas yeezy slide storesadidas shoes on saleadidas coupon codeadidas shoes on saleadidas onlineadidas yeezy boost 350 v2 menswomens adidas ultra boostadidas saleadidas slides yeezyadidas shoesadidas yeezy 450adidas yeezysadidas yeezy womensadidas ultra boost saleadidas yeezy foam runneradidas yezzy boost 350 v2adidas shoe salesadidas originals storeadidas storeadidas yeezy boostadidas ultraboost 20 sneakers storesadidas yeezy womensbest adidas shoesadidas yeezy boost 350adidas yeezy 350 boost v2adidas yeezy boost 350 v2 shoes storesadidas yeezyadidas yeezy 350 boost v2adidas yeezy foamadidas yeezy boost 350 v2adidas shoes for menadidas storesadidas ultraboost shoes

It’s been proven that coffee production has overwhelmingly negative effects on the regions that rely on it, most notable one being climate change. Worser still, climate change has been proven to negatively impact poverty rates in affected regions. 

Due to the fact that much of climate change in Latin America stems from coffee, could this profitable crop inadvertently be causing poverty rates to rise?

Firstly, why does Latin America produce so much coffee? As the world’s largest coffee producing region, Latin America has all the conditions ripe for the crop; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims that warm tropical climates, rich soils and few pests made it easy to produce coffee in Latin America. Furthermore, coffee is one of the most important tropical commodities since it produces the most revenue for poor nations out of every agricultural product, generating over 2 billion US dollars in 2019 as measured by Statista. With all these factors, it’s easy to explain why Latin America grows so much coffee.

So how does coffee production exacerbate climate change? 

A study published in the International Journal of Comparative Sociology outright states that coffee export dependence is associated with higher rates of deforestation, which is the main connection between coffee production and climate change. 

Given that a large portion of Latin America’s economy revolves around coffee, it is necessary that much of the land be cleared for coffee production so as to maintain the high levels of output. This practice contributes greatly to deforestation across Latin America, which has its own set of adverse effects.

In fact, according to the research paper, Coffee and Cocoa Agroforestry Systems: Pathways to Deforestation, Reforestation, and Tree Cover Change, over 5.6 million hectares of land are used for coffee production, which constitutes roughly 5% of the total arable land in Latin America. Due to the fact that so much land needs to be cleared for coffee plantation farms, this has led to a high rate of deforestation – the highest from 1990-2010 as illustrated by the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment

This occurrence correlates with the switch to sun-grown coffee in the 1970s. Sun-grown coffee creates the highest yield, but it requires vast lands to be cleared so that coffee can be grown. Sustainable Business Toolkit states that over 2.5 million acres of forests have been cleared in Central America alone for the production of sun-grown coffee. It’s evident that coffee production requires a large amount, especially if a region is dependent on it, which leads to widespread deforestation. 

The process of deforestation contributes much to climate change; when trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide stored within them is released back into the atmosphere, as opposed to the oxygen the trees normally produce. The Climate Institute claims that around 25% of the world’s total greenhouse gas production stems from deforestation. 

In Brazil, deforestation has reduced the size of the Amazon rainforest by 20%, a large portion of it stemming from coffee production. This level of deforestation makes Brazil one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gasses and climate change, demonstrating the close correlations between coffee plantations and climate change. 

Now, how exactly does climate change contribute to poverty? According to the World Bank, climate change could put 130 million people into poverty over the course of 10 years as a result of multiple factors ranging from a rise in natural disasters to shortages of basic necessities to the depletion of arable land. These factors have a tremendous negative impact on the coffee industry in Latin America; natural disasters and dwindling arable land would severely hinder and limit the output of coffee plantations, thus impeding economic growth in the region and even reversing it. 

Climate change has also been found to be occurring at an incredibly rapid pace; climate disasters and poor conservation has led to the loss of around ⅓ of arable land in the past 40 years, as stated by Duncan Cameron, Professor of Plant and Soil Biology at the University of Sheffield. 

Furthermore, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that soil is being lost up to 100 times faster than it is forming, which is incredibly detrimental to coffee plantations and production. Countries that rely on coffee production to sustain their economy may have a harder time expanding or maintaining their plantations due to soil loss. In fact, climate change is occurring so quickly that land suitable for coffee production in Latin America may be reduced by 88% by 2050 according to the review article Transformation of coffee-growing landscapes across Latin America

Should this come to pass, the reduced land set for coffee production would severely impact the industry and the economy in Latin America, resulting in higher poverty rates in the region. Clearly, the negative effects of climate change have an overwhelmingly negative effect on the coffee industry in Latin America, which may contribute to a higher rate of poverty in the future. 

In summary, the issue of climate change contributes to the cycle of poverty and coffee production in Latin America; coffee production contributes heavily to deforestation, which causes CO² levels and greenhouse gasses to rise in the atmosphere. This leads to more climate change, higher occurrences of natural disasters, and most notably, the rapid loss of arable land necessary for coffee production. 

A smaller capacity for coffee production would evidently lead to a shrinking economy in Latin American countries that depend on the crop, furthering the levels of poverty in the region. Poverty leads to coffee production and coffee production leads to more poverty. Thus, the cycle continues, with no end in sight.

Edit Credit: Megan Cansino

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