Skip Navigation

Coffee Conservation Initiatives

Coffee conservation initiative banner - with coffee berries background photoCaribbean Area NRCS is helping farmers conserve resources on their coffee plantations through EQIP funding to:

Shade Coffee

Caribbean Area NRCS is helping Puerto Rico’s farmers to convert their sun-grown coffee plantations to shade-grown plantations to protect, enhance and conserve soil, water and wildlife habitat.  The Shade-Grown Coffee Initiative is a partnership between NRCS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and EnviroSurvey, Inc., a non-governmental organization (NGO).

About 10 years ago, the NRCS State Technical Committee’s Wildlife and Forestry Subcommittee advised NRCS to designate a shade-grown coffee priority area extending 5 miles around the perimeter of the Mariaco State Forest to protect wildlife. This area includes the municipalities of Maricao, Mayagüez, Las Marías, San Sebastián, San Germán and Yauco.

Maps showing location of Maricao State Forest in southwestern Puerto Rico (left) and trees planted from 2010-2016.
Maps showing location of Maricao State Forest in southwestern Puerto Rico (left) and trees planted from 2010-2016.

Shade-grown coffee plantations provide important wildlife habitat functions such as refuge, shelter and nesting sites. They also create a biological corridor between the Maricao, Susúa and Guilarte State Forests (above right). These forests provide habitat for many threatened and endangered species including:

  • Amazona vittata, Puerto Rican Parrot
  • Accipiter striatus, Puerto Rico Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Caprimulgus noctitherus, Puerto Rico Nightjar
  • Dendroica angelae, Elfin woods warbler
  • Epicrates inornatus, Puerto Rican boa
Shade coffee provides habitat for threatened & endangered species including Puerto Rican parrot, Puerto Rican sharp-shinned hawk, Puerto Rican nightjar, Elfin woods warbler and Puerto Rican boa.

NRCS and partners used two Agroforestry Shade Coffee Models (below) to promote shading of up to 30% of the acreage on coffee plantations.

Two different shade coffee planting models

Maricao farmer plants native trees to shade his coffee shrubs.
Maricao farmer plants native trees to shade coffee shrubs.

Five native tree species traditionally used by coffee producers in Puerto Rico were distributed to farmers for planting:

  • Guaba (River koko, Inga vera)
  • Moca (Dog almond, Andira inermis)
  • Guamá (Inga laurina
  • Capá prieto (Spanish elm, Cordia alliodora)
  • Cojoba cojoba (Cojoba arborea)

Since 2007, project partners have distributed over 83,000 shade trees, and NRCS has contributed $408,350 to improve 979 acres of coffee plantations to provide the following benefits:

  • Reduced pesticide and fertilizer use on coffee crops;
  • Reduced soil erosion;
  • Lower temperatures;
  • Improved pollinator habitat;
  • Improved coffee and bean quality;
  • Extended tree production lifetimes; and
  • Improved wildlife habitat.
Mature trees shade coffee plantation (photo by Juana Diaz DC, Nicis Vega).
Mature trees shade coffee plantation (Photo by DC Nicis Vega).
Shade Coffee Conservation Practices:
  • Contour Orchards (331)
  • Multistory Cropping (379)
  • Mulching (484)
  • Nutrient Management (590)
  • Integrated Pest Management (595)
  • Tree/shrub site preparation (490)
  • Tree/shrub establishment (612)
  • Tree/shrub pruning (660)

More Information