Forest Conservation in the Coffee Regions Linking Eight National Parks: the Yoro Biological Corridor Initiative

As coffee demand for coffee increases, forests in Central America are cleared to make way for coffee farms. As a region, Central America is the second largest coffee producer after Brazil, with Honduras the largest producer in Central America. In the higher elevations, coffee is competing with cloud forests and threatening parks designed to protect these forests and the important function they provide as the headwaters of watersheds that provide drinking water for the surrounding municipalities and the hydropower for the largest electric utility in Honduras.

Forest Destruction in Pico Pijol National Park, photo courtesy of Biology Department, National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH)

Cafe Solar–coffee processed with renewable energy technology and promoting forest-friendly coffee production in support of the Yoro Biological Corridor

In an effort to demonstrate a model of coffee production that conserves forest habitat on private land that are home to thousands of coffee-producing families, the Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI) is partnering with Fair Trade Cooperatives, municipalities and government agencies to implement a new land-sparing method of coffee production developed by MDI that conserves forest habitat on coffee farms, along with renewable energy technology to eliminate the use of firewood in industrial coffee drying. To complete the model, coffee roasters/distributors are invited to purchase Cafe Solar® and differentiate the coffee with its sustainability attributes. The Café Solar® brand was developed by MDI to increase demand for the alternative carbon-neutral production and processing model. Café Solar® has served as the official sustainable coffee of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

MDI is designated by the Honduran Forest, Park and Wildlife Service as Co-Managers of Pico Pijol National Park and Montaña de Yoro National Park to further develop the alternative model of sustainable development in the coffee regions.

Co-Management meeting for Pico Pijol National Park at the Off-Grid Processing Facility featuring solar/biomass coffee drying towers

Maintaining and/or restoring forest habitat on private lands surrounding these threatened national parks is a continuing focus of our research partnerships with the US Forest Service, Honduran Forest Service, and our university partners: University of Massachusetts; National Autonomous University of Honduras; and Tulane University.

Key Components of the Yoro Model

Processing with MDI’s renewable energy technology allows coffee to be dried industrially without burning wood. The Costa Rican Coffee Institute declared conventional wood-burning dryers an “environmental emergency” in 2013.

Integrated Open Canopy™ (IOC) coffee production is a land-sparing approach to coffee cultivation that conserves an area of forest at least equal to the area of coffee cultivation. IOC has been demonstrated to provide forest habitat for forest-dependent bird species in addition to generalist bird species, providing a high-biodiversity production system good for birds and watersheds.

The combination of IOC production with renewable energy technology allows for the trade of high-value carbon offsets to provide incentives for the adoption of the alternative production model. Maintaining forests are critical to curbing global warming and stemming the alarming loss of water resources due to deforestation.

The Yoro Biological Corridor Initiative

Integrated Open Canopy™ farm with coffee cultivation surrounded by forest buffer

The Yoro Biological Corridor Initiative is an effort to scale-up the Yoro Model to a landscape level linking eight national parks threatened by conventional coffee production. The establishment of the corridor by the government of Honduras will seek to promote and build on the efforts of the park Co-Managers. The initiative will a create a carbon-neutral Off-Grid Processing Facility linked with Integrated Open Canopy™ in a carbon trading program to conserve and restore forest habitat on private lands throughout the Corridor.

The Initiative will create and support the skills required to adopt renewable energy (solar and biofuels) for rural productive applications, carbon accounting and measurement skills required to increase the sale of carbon offsets to the international market. Training and equipment to boost the capacity of the local municipal environmental units throughout the 26 municipalities will also be provided.

The initiative will also provide research and education centers at national parks that will bring international researchers, and environmental scouting programs to the region.

The $68 million, 10-year initiative has been prepared for presentation to the Green Climate Fund in conjunction with the Biodiversity Division of the Environment & National Resources Ministry and Honduran Forest Service. To date MDI has provided 250  presentations at meetings with stakeholders, government ministries, and potential funders. The Initiative has broad support from the public, NGOs, and the public and private sector, with over 35 public hearings to date.

Endorsements

  • National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH)
  • The Institute for Forest Conservation (ICF) (Honduran Central Government)
  • The National Electric Generation Company (ENEE)
  • The President’s Office on Climate Change
  • The Ministry of Natural Resource & the Environment (MiAmbiente)
  • The National Council for Sustainable Development (CONADES)
  • The 11 Mayors and Governor of the Department of Yoro, supporting the Co-Management of Pico Pijol National Park and the Yoro Biological Corridor
  • The US Forest Service (Department of Agriculture)
  • The US Fish & Wildlife Service (Department of Interior)
  • The University of Massachusetts
  • Tulane University
  • Cornell University
  • The American Bird Conservancy
  • International Partners in Flight
  • The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Secretariat
  • A growing coalition of coffee companies promoting Café Solar® in the US, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Australia, and Sweden.

Yoro Biological Corridor Metrics

  • 12,000 square kilometers
  • 26 municipalities
  • Includes participation of indigenous community (Federation of Xicaque Tribes, Yoro, Honduras (FETRIXI))
  • Current coffee production of 1,486,685 qq
  • Current area of coffee cultivation 52,247 Ha or 129,106 acres
  • 15,266 registered coffee producers
  • Total population approximately 884,660
  • Ten threatened protected areas

Video on Cafe Solar and the Yoro Biological Corridor