95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

COS 19-10 - Engaging a coffee farmer community in the Los Santos region of Costa Rica: Developing tools for farmers to encourage sustainable farming practices

Tuesday, August 3, 2010: 11:10 AM
333, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Thomas V. Dietsch1, Mark W. Chandler2, Sebastian Castro Tanzi3, Natalia Urena4 and Lucia Vendas Navarro4, (1)Research, Earthwatch Institute, Boston, MA, (2)Earthwatch Institute, Boston, MA, (3)Department of Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, (4)Earthwatch Institute, San Jose, Costa Rica
Background/Question/Methods   Costa Rica intensified coffee production in the early 1980s, converting large areas of diverse shade coffee to modern conventional sun or low shade coffee. Using these modern methods, the Los Santos region is one of the most productive coffee growing regions in the world. Unfortunately, these methods have proven unsustainable and production is beginning to decline. Earthwatch has engaged farmers in this region to reduce the environmental consequences from this long history of intensive production. Forty farmers were trained to use logbook registers to document inputs and production on their coffee farms over a 3-year period. In addition, each year, Earthwatch volunteer teams sampled the soil and farming practices and coffee berry production on each farm. Soil analysis software was developed to help farmers interpret soil lab results and reduce agrochemical inputs. A GIS database for the region was compiled to provide a landscape perspective and to help farmers and other community leaders visualize regional solutions.

Results/Conclusions   This research has demonstrated to farmers that high levels of agrochemical use degrade soil and reduce production. Using these tools and new insights, farmers are reducing inputs and adopting more sustainable practices. Participatory research plots on ten farms are encouraging farmers to adopt scientific management skills to test alternative farming practices. With the advent of ecosystem service payment programs in Costa Rica, farmers are more open to restoring shade management. The tools developed by this program will allow farmers to evaluate the effect of shade management practices on their soil and production as an alternative to the conventional growing model. In addition, the GIS database will allow targeted landscape-level reforestation of high-priority conservation areas or areas vulnerable to erosion through multi-stakeholder watershed management.