Permaculture: How to grow a really sustainable coffee

Sustainability is increasing in importance in many sectors. From economy to politics to the daily life of each one of us. Various studies show that consumers prefer to buy products from companies that use sustainability practices in production, processing and management over those of the less sensitive competitors. In order to always be up-to-date, coffee also needs to undergo some changes. The key word is: permaculture.

But what is this permaculture exactly?

The word is composed by the term “permanent”, meaning sustainable, and “agriculture”. It is a method for agriculture that is practiced in harmony with nature. In the focus there are various elements of a system based on the reuse and recycling of the raw material. The aim is to create a harmonious, sustainable and productive environment by reducing energy consumption and improving the soil. Recycling of resources also plays an important role in permaculture, together with the support of the workers, their families and the local communities. 

Below we describe five aspects that are particularly relevant for permaculture coffee cultivation.

 

Permaculture: How to grow a really sustainable coffee

1 – Biodiversity

One of the most important aspects that producers take into consideration for the cultivation of permaculture coffee is biodiversity. In this way, diseases don’t affect the whole plantation when they attack a variety of plants. Biodiversity ensures a favorable environment not only to ward off diseases, but also to support useful insects such as bees, which help develop the reproduction of coffee plants.

In addition, biodiversity also includes the cultivation of other plants such as fruit trees. The advantages: these trees provide shade for the coffee plants and the harvest is an additional source of income for the owners. Other possibilities for additional income could be growing vegetables or keeping livestock.

 

2 – Natural fertilizers

There are various possibilities of producing natural fertilizers. However, the most nutritious method is that of fertilizers deriving from animals. Both cow and worm faeces are rich in nutritional substances, important for the growth of plants.

It is certainly not mandatory to fertilize with animal faeces but it could have some advantages. For example the possibility of having total control over the food of food animals that does not contain medicines or other chemicals.

Another important element for the circular economy is the recycling of waste products deriving from the production of coffee. The skin of the coffee cherry, for example, can be combined with the animal faeces to create an optimal fertilizer. Therefore, the purchase costs of pesticides and chemical fertilizers are eliminated and 100% of the action is done in a biological and sustainable way.

 

3 – The correct attitude towards weeds

Bermuda grass (also called “weed”) is often seen as a problem in cultivation that must be eliminated with non-natural pesticides or fertilizers. The general fear is that weeds would remove vital substances from plants. Although this may be true in many cases, the harmful substances used to combat weeds return to the soil and therefore pollute it. In addition, bermuda grass is an excellent food for bees and other pollinators.

This is why in permaculture practices, during the harvest, the “Chop-and-drop” method is used for which the weeds are cut and left to decompose on the ground. Thus the leaves function as mulch, avoiding the new growth of weeds and enriching the soil with vital organic substances.

 

Permaculture: How to grow a really sustainable coffee

 

4 – The protection of species

Permaculture practices preserve and operate in harmony with nature and the dynamics of the environment. For example, a plantation located near a forest creates a protective environment for insects, birds and other animals.

In addition, important insects such as bees can nest and begin with pollination, birds have a safe place to hatch and the opportunity to hunt flies and other parasites in total freedom.

 

5 – Value creation and quality control

The processing and roasting of coffee are also important elements for the success of coffee producers. This is why we count them as an important feature in permaculture.

Many coffee producers do not have the choice or do not know the various possibilities that exist when it comes to harvesting. Most of them collect all the beans despite their ripeness. The result is a harvest made up of very ripe, ripe and immature beans that does not result in a high quality.

Collecting only the ripe red beans takes longer to harvest, but the finished product can be sold at a much higher price thanks to better quality.

 

Permaculture: How to grow a really sustainable coffee

 

Our values at Mokaflor 

One thing we have understood in 70 years of tradition is that at the end of the day what matters in coffee and what really makes a difference when it comes to quality is: the raw material. We can have the best roasting methods, the best marketing and the best sales channels, but if the product we sell does not have a high quality to start with, all of the above strategies will not lead to a satisfaction of the end customer.

Furthermore, they would not even lead to our own business and personal satisfaction. The current period we are going through has made us reflect even more on the importance of having our main objectives clear at heart. These are:

  • Selection of a high quality coffee that is environmentally and ethically sustainable and supports the local communities in the producing countries, choosing to only buy lots from selected plantations and even better, if they use processes such as permaculture and other sustainable practices
  • High level roasting as for 70 years now, without bending to the faster and cheaper methods that would compromise the quality of the final product
  • Teaching and spreading of the know-how of our experts from Espresso Academy, for the education and information of coffee professionals and end consumers on the importance of high quality and the difference in the taste of coffee based on their processing methods