16/03/2014
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Coffee and conservation

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Endemic Puerto Rican songbird Elfin-woods Warbler will be one of the many species to benefit from the new coffee-growing scheme. Photo: AlbertHerring (commons.wikimedia.org).
Endemic Puerto Rican songbird Elfin-woods Warbler will be one of the many species to benefit from the new coffee-growing scheme. Photo: AlbertHerring (commons.wikimedia.org).
An charity based in Puerto Rico has launched a conservation project aimed at coffee growers and workers to train them in sustainable practices in tropical forests.

People living and working in and around the forests of the Maricao and Susúa Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) are to take part in a new project to educate and involve them in eco-friendly coffee-growing and conservation. The CAFEiCANTO project provides them with training in sustainable agriculture, shade-grown coffee, water conservation, and bird monitoring and reporting.

The forests are home to the globally threatened Puerto Rican Nightjar and Elfin-woods Warbler, and 18 restricted-range species including the Puerto Rican Tody, as well as important populations of many Neotropical migratory birds. The forests are also recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area because of their importance for plants, bats, reptiles and amphibians.

The NGO – Cafiesencia – became the custodian of the IBA after signing an agreement with the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society (SOPI, BirdLife in Puerto Rico) to promote economic sustainability and biodiversity conservation through the production of 'ecological shade-grown coffee'. SOPI supports the production and marketing of shade-grown coffee, as it represents an important means of conserving birds through the maintenance of sheltering canopy trees, while at the same time securing a premium trade price and improving the livelihoods of farmers.

The logo of the CAFEiCANTO project features the Elfin-woods Warbler and the slogan: 'in harmony with coffee'. Cafiesencia is implementing the project under a co-operative agreement with the USDA Forest Service.

“Being custodians of the IBA, we saw a need to educate the surrounding farming communities of the forests, to create awareness of bird populations, and how they can add ecological and tourist value to the farms,” explained Cafiesencia’s Executive Director, Lisette Fas Quiñones. The CAFEiCANTO project provides the opportunity for farms to be evaluated for agri-ecotourism potential.

Collaborators on the project include the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, College of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, and the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States.
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