Project Profile: Sustainable Climate-Friendly Coffee (CO2 Coffee)

The coastal mountains of Oaxaca produces some of the world’s finest organic coffee, thanks to decades of tireless work by rural farmers.

In the indigenous Chatino region, these farmers, about half of them women, rely heavily on their coffee crop for their income. The majority of these farmers are certified by the Rainforest Alliance, evidence of their hard work and commitment to environmental sustainability. However, due to changing rainfall, storm, and drought patterns and intensity, an onslaught from coffee rust–a fungus that decimates coffee plants–and a lack of rural extension services, income from coffee is usually not enough. Many farmers supplement their livelihoods through cattle and agriculture, or by selling or renting their land for other uses, leading to an increasingly fragmented landscape with diminished forest cover.

Several years ago, the Rainforest Alliance partnered with the local coffee cooperative UNECAFE (Unidad Ecológica para el Sector Café Oaxaqueño) to pilot a reforestation program with certified coffee farmers to restore degraded areas within and around coffee parcels. This project differed from others in that it was designed as a forest carbon offset project, which measures the amount of greenhouse gases captured by the reforested trees as an additional benefit to the value of shade and habitat by following the Verified Carbon Standard – the leading independently verified international greenhouse gas accounting standard.

Carbon coffee farmers


Oaxaca, Mexico

Project Objectives

  • Develop local capacities to implement and manage a reforestation project with local coffee farmers in order to restore forest cover on degraded coffee parcels and other degraded areas and to create new coffee parcels on formerly degraded land.
  • Measure and independently verify reforestation efforts according to the Verified Carbon Standard, resulting in verified carbon sequestration credits that can be sold to parties interested in reducing their greenhouse gas footprint.
  • Cultivate an emerging form of finance that incentivizes ecological restoration in a way that can potentially reward local coffee farmers and provide funds to strengthen community-based technical services to help local coffee farmers battle the effects of climate change. 

Partner communities

The project supports local coffee farmers of the Chatino indigenous group. The project also focuses heavily on developing local, talented community members to become highly trained field extensionists trained in both reforestation management and coffee production.  Our work is done locally by UNECAFE, who’s technical abilities to autonomously manage this project is supported and developed by the project and the assistance provided by the Rainforest Alliance. 

Goals/Desired Impacts

  • Generate resources, financial or otherwise, for indigenous coffee farmers as a result of selling verified emissions reductions on the voluntary carbon market, and by selling climate-friendly branded coffee.
  • Increase forest cover with native species in degraded areas, improve the climate resiliency of coffee plants as a result of restoring tree cover, and enhance habitat value in the coffee-growing landscape.
  • Set a foundation for creating local jobs for community-based natural resource technicians to help their own communities to improve how coffee, as well as the environment, is managed.
  • Through the project’s greenhouse gas accounting, build local awareness about the value of maintaining and restoring forest cover, and improve the desirability of maintaining shade coffee over cattle ranching or other activities with a higher ecological impact.
  • Develop critical skills in greenhouse gas accounting and their associated standards and conventions.  This is important because Mexico is steadily developing its own domestic market for accounting for and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and has indicated that reforestation projects are eligible to participate in this domestic market.  The skills imparted by this project to UNECAFE and the community technicians sets a strong foundation for increased participation in national policies to combat climate change.

Partner Organizations

  • Unidad Ecológica para el Café Oaxaqueño (UNECAFE)
  • ABC México, Negocios Sostenibles.
  • Agroindustrias Unidas de Mexico (AMSA) 


  • Banamex
  • Alstom
  • Symantec

Rainforest Alliance Contact

Edgar Gonzales, Director - Mexico




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