A Leader in Climate-Friendly Coffee

Scarlet Macaw - Photo by Esteban Ericksen Biologists have found rare macaws, owls, jaguar tracks and a giant anteater in the protected areas of Daterra, a farm in southeastern Brazil known as much for its superior beans as its commitment to conservation and climate-friendly farming.

The famous fazenda -- located in Brazil’s cerrado, an enormous flat, grassy plateau -- is owned by philanthropist and coffee expert Luis Norbeto Pascoal, who added coffee to his family’s agribusiness in 1974. It’s a business with deep roots in the community. In 1902, Pascoal’s grandfather Miguel migrated from Italy, soon after launching a small market coffee stand that has grown into a multi-faceted family business.

While Daterra has always been guided by a strict environmental ethos, today it is truly a leader in climate- and wildlife-friendly farming. In 2003, the 14,800-acre (6000-hectare) farm became the first in Brazil to earn Rainforest Alliance certification. Last year, it achieved another milestone, becoming the second coffee estate in the world to earn Rainforest Alliance verification for climate-friendly practices, a voluntary add-on to Rainforest Alliance certification.

When the farm began working to meet the climate criteria, it found that many of its practices were already climate-friendly.  After the assessment, it learned that it was actually sequestering more carbon than it was producing, which will enable the farm to earn extra income from selling carbon credits. “Climate-friendly coffee is the future,” explains Pascoal. “We don’t have a choice.”

Fifty percent of Daterra’s land is preserved in its natural state, which helps to keep carbon safely sequestered and provides shelter, migratory routes and forage for wildlife living in the cerrado.  And because Daterra uses mechanical weeding and forgoes herbicides, soil is also conserved.

The farm is also a model of social sustainability. Its employees enjoy profit sharing, health care, transportation and child care. They’re committed to environmental responsibility, and work together to protect wildlife habitat, conserve water, treat waste and reduce chemical inputs.

“Sustainable agriculture is not static, it is something that that we must continually develop and refine,” says Eduardo Trevisan, deputy director of IMAFLORA, the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) partner in Brazil and the body that awarded the verification.  “Daterra’s achievement shows that producers are ready to accept the challenge.”

The Sustainable Agriculture Network’s (SAN) climate verification is a voluntary add-on to Rainforest Alliance certification. Farms that earn verification must educate themselves on the climate risks to their farms, create adaptation plans, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizers, pesticides, fossil fuel and animal husbandry. Climate-friendly farms also protect or enhance carbon storage on their land by protecting forests, promoting natural regeneration of native trees and planting new trees.

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