Coffee, maize, and banana trees in the community of Monte Sinaí. Crop diversification not only nourishes the soil, but also ensures food security of the communities. | Credit: Graciela Zavala, 2019 @xempasuchitl

Mexican Coffee: Better for People and Nature

Food security and climate smart agriculture in Mexico
By Graciela Zavala

The Rainforest Alliance is implementing the USAID-supported Alliance for Sustainable Landscapes and Markets project in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Quintana Roo, Mexico. This alliance involves groups of producers, nonprofit organizations, public institutions, enterprises, and consumers in taking actions towards a better future where people and nature thrive in harmony.

Climate-smart agriculture leads to food security and better livelihoods

As the world's population increases, so does the demand for food, leading to increased deforestation for conversion to farmland. Today, industrial agriculture is responsible for more than 80 percent of tropical deforestation. Without forests, there cannot be any coffee production or prosperous communities. Implementing climate-smart agriculture to improve the productivity of farms, while safeguarding forests, is one of the most essential natural solutions to create resilience to climate change, improve farmer livelihoods, and stop deforestation.

Coffee producers face severe obstacles nowadays, especially smallholder farmers. Atypical changes in seasonal weather, the presence of diseases like “Roya” coffee rust, low prices in the international market, and the lack of commercial alliances are the main threats to responsible coffee production in Mexico.

With USAID’s financial support, the Rainforest Alliance partnered with national organizations such as the Regional Coffee Producers Network in Oaxaca (CEPCO) and the Gigante Foundation. We are also joined by groups of producers from Chiapas and Oaxaca, as well as enterprises like Olam International and the “Toks” Mexican restaurant chain. Through this partnership, we implement climate-smart agriculture practices in coffee production and improve the livelihoods of rural communities. We also create commercial alliances with responsible markets that aim to bring the final consumer better products for people and nature.


The best way to fight severe climate impacts like forest fires is preventing them through reforestation and landscape restoration efforts.

Climate risk management enables climate-smart agriculture

Through our approach, implementing climate-smart agriculture starts with the assessment of the climate risk and vulnerability of a specific crop as part of an element of a landscape, taking into account the local ecosystems, interactions with other crops, and the presence of communities. It finds a balance in managing climate challenges and building resilience to future climate impacts.

There are three main actions we take into consideration while implementing climate-smart agriculture with more than 1,350 coffee producers from Oaxaca and Chiapas:

1. Improve farmer productivity, food security, and livelihoods:

Through climate-smart agriculture workshops on improved production practices, such as pest and disease management, soil conservation, crop diversification in coffee landscapes, plant management, and water conservation, we are improving the productivity in over 1,000 hectares of coffee crops, renovating farms, and replacing more than 540,000 coffee plants. Moreover, we aim to improve food security and the livelihoods of rural communities through diversifying income, strengthening ecosystems and the services they provide, and creating commercial alliances with the private sector.

Crop diversification in coffee landscapes not only strengthens and nourishes the soil where coffee is being produced, but it also assures the presence of a variety of fruits and vegetables that are essential in the everyday diet of the communities, such as maize, beans, oranges, and more.

2. Make coffee landscapes more resilient to prevent current and future climate impacts:

The best way to fight severe climate impacts like forest fires, droughts, and floods is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. By reforesting and restoring landscapes, we aim to generate resilience in forests, making them less vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather. Thus, we have reforested over 4,000 hectares of land in Oaxaca and Chiapas with native trees that are being produced in community-owned nurseries. In order to improve the resilience of coffee crops, we created two variety coffee gardens along with producers from Oaxaca. These are demonstrative parcels of different coffee varieties that help define which varieties are more suitable for specific landscapes and weather.

3. Curb greenhouse gas emissions associated with growing food: 

To produce coffee while conserving forests requires the commitment of adapting crops to forests, implementing practices to conserve biodiversity, and balancing production with conservation. That is why shade-grown coffee is beneficial, no matter what the climate risk to a specific landscape. With producers, we identify the best native tree species to plant, as well as an efficient shade-tree system that makes their crops—and the forest they inhabit—stronger.


Shade-grown coffee is beneficial no matter what the climate risk to a specific landscape.

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Biodiversity, Forestry, Food Security and Agriculture, Climate-Smart Agriculture, Private Sector Engagement, Resilience, Weather
Latin America & Caribbean

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