From the Field: Chiapas, Mexico

Earlier this summer, Green Coffee Buyer Carly Kadlec traveled to Chiapas, Mexico to visit our farmer partners at Comon Yaj Noptic Cooperative. Here she shares her thoughts on these farmers’ inspiring efforts to preserve local biodiversity:

Back in 2013, during my first visit to our partners at Comon Yaj Noptic (CYN) in Chiapas, Mexico, I learned about an incredibly interesting community-led effort to monitor biodiversity in and around members’ coffee farms.  CYN’s farmers live in and around the buffer zone of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. El Triunfo is an incredibly important and biodiverse mix of tropical and cloud forest in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range. After a massive hurricane impacted the region in the mid-2000s, conservation non-profits in the area looked for community partners to participate in monitoring projects to study the impact of climate change on this ecologically significant biologic corridor.  Luckily, the non-profit coordinating the project found CYN and engaged the farmers in the design and implementation of this project. The goal of the project was to monitor migratory bird species over the course of several years and track the impact that increasingly significant climate events have on this ecosystem. Farmer members of CYN were trained by wildlife biologists on how to perform bird counts and learned the scientific names of local and migratory species. The farmer-biologists then completed their species monitoring every month and reported their data back to a project coordinator at the cooperative.

This is a unique project for a couple of reasons. One of the common weaknesses of biodiversity conservation efforts is the lack of local input in project design and execution. In this project, the farmers directly contributed to the data collected, received compensation for their work as field monitors, and increased their knowledge about international birding tourism.  Comon Yaj Noptic now offers tourism packages for bird-watching in El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve and has attracted birders and photographers from around the world. I love traveling to Comon Yaj Noptic because I get to learn directly from farmers about the incredible biodiversity of the region as well as see an example of how community-centered conservation efforts can be successful scientific studies and add value to the local economy.

We’re proud to partner with this co-op and support their environmental stewardship efforts. In honor of this work, we roast Organic Bird of Paradise, a blend which includes beans from the coffee farms bordering these spectacular protected lands.

About The Author

Sara Fiore

4 COMMENTS

  1. Charles Simpson | 12th Aug 17

    Very interesting and heart breakingly beautiful vistas.
    Still, I’d point out a “point of view” problem. You write: “Farmer members of CYN were trained by wildlife biologists on how to perform bird counts and learned the scientific names of local and migratory species.” What’s interesting here is that the community already has profound local knowledge of bird species and is translating this into a vocabulary that outside researchers can understand. That Latin-based nomenclature is no more accurate or “scientific” than local terminology. The flow of knowledge, then, is from South to North. We can learn much from local indigenous farm communities.

  2. John | 8th Aug 17

    Thankyou for your article Sara Fiore.

    I wonder if you could please comment on how the local organic farmers are coping with the coffee plant rust disease, Roya del Café? Obviously they must be managing this appropriately to their needs; I wish them well. I strongly support organic farming, agro ecology and permaculture.

  3. JEFFREY HOLDER | 8th Aug 17

    Farmer biologists! This is a fantastic interaction between diverse communities resulting in a win-win-win. The CYN farmers learn about a valuable natural resource (birds/ecotourism) and get paid for becoming aware of their local birds, something they can easily integrate into their farming activities. The researchers benefit from a wealth of data at a reasonable cost, greatly increasing the extent and depth of their studies. We get great coffee responsibly grown in a sustainable manner. Why can’t we duplicate this model all over the planet?

  4. Karen Peissinger | 8th Aug 17

    Who is the person in the photo? If would be nice to know a little bit about him, such as what he likes about coffee farming and participating as a field monitor. Add impact by sharing some of the story of the people pictured in this type of blog post, and in other marketing literature.

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