The Agroforestry Paradox – Climate Clever Coffee (APCCO)

Project summary

Coffee is king in Uganda. In fact, among all commodities, only gold ranks higher. However, unlike gold, coffee is the main livelihood for millions of Ugandans. More than 1,2 million farmers are cultivating coffee and even more find work across the coffee sector. Right now, climate changes are threatening the lives of coffee communities across the globe including Uganda. Increasing temperatures, prolonged droughts, floods and changes in rainfall patterns are disrupting the coffee farming in various ways, from changes to flowering, fruiting and pest incidences to withering plants and flooded farms. Consequently, yields are drastically reduced, coffee plants are killed and farmers’ livelihoods are lost.

“The Agroforestry Paradox - Climate Clever Coffee” (APCCO) project examines how the use of agroforestry (AF) practices, i.e. planting of shade trees on coffee farms can be fine-tuned as a nature-based strategy against climate change. Despite the widely known benefits of AF, only a small share of the world’s coffee production comes from these kind of shaded production systems. Why is this? This paradox is central in the research proposal of APCCO, which looks to uncover the biophysical interactions, local ecological knowledge and socioeconomics behind on-farm decisions relating to coffee-AFS and climate change.

Through interdisciplinary concerted efforts, APCCO will funnel new data and knowledge sources into digitalized farm simulators (so-called ‘digital twins’) of local coffee AF systems in Uganda. These digital tools enable the modelling of different scenarios for agroforestry development specific to the Ugandan environment and climate changes. Ecosystems services, such as carbon sequestration and production of coffee and tree crops, will also be modelled, optimized and used to fine-tune current AF practices. Supplemented with assessments of farmers’ livelihoods, we aim to document and improve the living income of farmers, i.e. help farmers obtain a basic, yet decent living. Using a ‘living lab’, where actors in the Uganda coffee sector will co-create and test new business models, APCCO will also develop integrated business models for coffee and ecosystem services. With a range of stakeholders (including vulnerable community members, roasters, academics and impact financers) the project will evaluate and incubate promising business models for a more sustainable and climate-secure Ugandan coffee production.

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