Nimbly Resilient African Coffee Farmers Switch to Coffee Bean that Withstands Global Warming

(p. A1) First the bad news. The two types of coffee that most of us drink — Arabica and robusta — are at grave risk in the era of climate change.

Now the good news. Farmers in one of Africa’s biggest coffee exporting countries are growing a whole other variety that better withstands the heat, drought and disease supersized by global warming.

. . .

Catherine Kiwuka, a coffee specialist at the National Agricultural Research Organization, called Liberica excelsa “a neglected coffee species.” She is part of an experiment to introduce it to the world.

. . .

(p, A6) In 2016, she invited Aaron Davis, a coffee scientist from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England, to Zirobwe. He was skeptical at first. He had tasted Liberica elsewhere and found it to be like “vegetable soup,” he said.

But then, the next day, he ground the beans from Zirobwe in his hotel room. Yes, a coffee researcher always packs a portable grinder when traveling.

“Actually, this is not bad,” he recalled thinking. It had potential.

. . .

Dr. Kiwuka and Dr. Davis teamed up. They would encourage farmers to improve the harvesting and drying of their Liberica crop. Instead of tossing them in with the robusta beans, they would sell the Libericas separately. If they met certain standards, they would get a higher price.

“In a warming world, and in an era beset with supply chain disruption, Liberica coffee could re-emerge as a major crop plant,” they wrote in Nature, the scientific journal, this past December.

For the full story, see:

Somini Sengupta. “Hardier Brew: African Farmers Bet on Climate-Resistant Coffee.” The New York Times (Saturday, April 29, 2023): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 28, 2023, and has the title “What Climate Change Could Mean for the Coffee You Drink.”)

The article in Nature Plants mentioned above is:

Davis, Aaron P., Catherine Kiwuka, Aisyah Faruk, Mweru J. Walubiri, and James Kalema. “The Re-Emergence of Liberica Coffee as a Major Crop Plant.” Nature Plants 8, no. 12 (Dec. 2022): 1322-28.

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