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CO₂ Coffee Project

Sustainable Climate Friendly Coffee

The Mexican state of Oaxaca once boasted a variety of thriving tropical ecosystems, including broadleaf and pine/oak forests. In recent years, however, cattle ranching and agricultural expansion have destroyed much of this coastal area’s lush mountain landscape. Amid the resulting mosaic of pastures, farms and forest fragments, the region’s largely indigenous communities of smallholder farmers are trying to create viable livelihoods centered on small-scale coffee production.

In Oaxaca and elsewhere, deforestation and forest degradation threaten the integrity of local ecosystems and lead to increased erosion, poor downstream water quality and the release of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. Oaxaca’s local farmers are already noticing shifts in their rainy and dry seasons, and these changes are likely to be exacerbated by further climatic shifts, posing additional threats to coffee production in the region.

Improving Landscapes and Livelihoods

The CO₂ Coffee project is designed to combat deforestation and mitigate the effects of climate change while also supporting communities seeking to improve their livelihoods. In collaboration with local partners, we are working with roughly 400 coffee farmers in Oaxaca’s Chatina and Zapoteca regions to:

  • Protect the region’s remaining forests
  • Reforest degraded areas
  • Promote the long-term sustainable production of coffee
  • Increase their crops’ resilience to the impacts of climate change

The farms involved in this project are located in the Santa Lucía Teotepec, San Juan Lachao Nuevo, Santa Rosa de Lima and Soledad Piedra Larga communities and are already Rainforest Alliance Certified™, meaning that farmers have met the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and adhere to on-farm methods that reduce waste, protect local ecosystems and promote social and community benefits. They are reforesting fallow farmland and increasing shade cover in their pasture areas and within their coffee farms by planting a more even mix of tree species. Not only do these measures promote soil fertility and maintain the connectivity of wildlife habitat, but they also provide community members with a valuable and sustainable supply of timber and fruit.

The communities involved are working toward validation and verification to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Once verified, the farmers will be able to sell carbon credits on the international market, and the project will become one of the first VCS reforestation projects in Mexico.

The Rainforest Alliance is providing technical assistance and guidance on the project’s development and its corresponding “Project Design Document” (a blueprint for how it will function), which is necessary to earn VCS verification. We are also supporting the training of local farmers in farming and forestry management practices and have already trained local youth to serve as community technicians who can actively monitor reforestation activities, and collect and record data. Ultimately, the project will be managed entirely by the local communities.

By building on the existing framework of Rainforest Alliance certification, these Oaxaca coffee farmers are creating an effective model for conservation, economic development and climate change mitigation that can be scaled up to suit a range of farms throughout the region and around the world—demonstrating that smallholders can benefit from carbon finance.


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