The coffee farmers in Santa Lucía Teotepec, a rural area in Oaxaca, Mexico, feel the impacts of climate change in their everyday lives. “We feel the heat. It doesn’t rain like it used to,” says Leandro Salinas, community leader of the local coffee cooperative, UNECAFE, which is Rainforest Alliance Certified. Such changes in weather patterns and rainfall can hurt farm productivity—and consequently, the livelihoods of farmers and their families.
The Rainforest Alliance has been working with a group of more than 250 smallholder coffee farmers for almost five years on an innovative forest carbon project to combat climate change and boost climate resilience—and in the fall of 2015, in a noteworthy achievement, the group earned validation from one of the most rigorous greenhouse gas accounting programs in the world, the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
The Oaxaca CO2 Coffee project is one of only about 100 VCS-validated projects in the forest and land-use sector worldwide. Moreover, it’s one of few such projects that has achieved this validation through reforestation activities; other efforts focus on preventing emissions by avoiding deforestation. Through reforestation, the project will likely remove 130,000 tons of emissions from the atmosphere over 30 years—that’s about the equivalent of the annual emissions for 27,000 cars.
“This project will benefit generations to come… they will still have trees because we are conserving them now. These trees will provide clean air for our planet.”
UNECAFE Community Youth Monitor Felicitas Sánchez
Validation is an important step toward long-term sustainability for these four communities, all of whom are Chatino, an ethnic group whose language predates colonization and is on UNESCO’s endangered list. By training young people as technicians, the project offers a way to make a living within the community so they don’t have to leave to seek employment. The majority of technicians, whose responsibilities include mapping, monitoring and measuring, are young women.
“This project will benefit generations to come,” says UNECAFE Community Youth Monitor Felicitas Sánchez. “When (those generations) grow up, they will still have trees because we are conserving them now. These trees will provide clean air for our planet.” This year alone, 30,000 trees are being planted under the reforestation plan.