Coffee Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

myclimate | This project helps small holder coffee farmers adapt and improve their income while supporting the economic and environmental sustainability of the coffee industry in Nicaragua. This is achieved through combined planting of disease resistant coffee plants with other multifunctional trees.

Project type


Project field

Forestry and Land Use



The cultivation of shade grown coffee plays an important role in Nicaraguan livelihoods. However, warmer temperatures associated with climate change have facilitated an ongoing outbreak of a fungus known as leaf rust. This phenomenon is now threatening the income of millions who depend on the coffee industry across Central America and in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The disease causes coffee leaves to fall prematurely reducing crops by 10-40 per cent. However, the majority of coffee farmers cannot afford to switch to disease resistant varieties. Replacement of current coffee plants with improved varieties does not only require a high level of initial investment. Farmers must also wait several years before the new plants mature and begin producing crops.

Payments to small farmers for planting new coffee trees encourages the establishment of new coffee agroforestry systems at higher elevations where temperatures are cooler and therefore less sensitive to rust attacks. Furthermore, the project provides technical training on the best coffee management practices to increase crops and control pests and diseases in the region. This also includes the transition away from agro-chemicals towards organic products. Additionally, farmers gain improved market access so that they receive a higher price for their coffee.

The coffee agroforestry model consists of a 4-layer system which helps to prevent the outbreak of the fungus, isolates large amounts of CO2 and provides a diverse wildlife habitat. Furthermore, it reduces soil erosion, floodings and droughts and improves the soil fertility. Besides the ecological benefits the project also ensures an additional source of income through fuelwood and fruit trees, encourages women to participate in the community recruiting meetings and promotes the use of the carbon finance payments for school fees and uniforms.

UN Sustainable Development Goals