ELEVENTH HOUR: Amadeo Coffee farmers fighting a lesser-known enemy

Published October 14, 2021, 10:52 AM

by Climate Reality Project Philippines

Farmers in the coffee capital may be fighting an enemy they never knew.

Amid the rising demand for artisan coffee and other coffee products in the Metro, most of the coffee beans available to us are those coming from as far as Davao. What really happened to the country’s coffee capital—Amadeo, Cavite—that is, geographically speaking, 24 times closer? I’ve had the rare opportunity to get a grasp of the situation from the coffee farmers in Amadeo while working as a research assistant in the quaint town last year.

The biggest problem coffee farmers had in Amadeo was that plants had become unproductive despite meaningful interventions, and so they had to adapt by cultivating other cash crops for livelihood.

Amadeo farmers used to be very proud of their harvest and boast about producing great quality coffee beans back in the ’90s. In recent years though, coffee farmers were frustrated and helpless as their cropping patterns were almost always disrupted by sudden bursts in temperature. In fact, one season, upon celebrating their trees finally reproducing, the temperature spiked leaving the flowers burnt! A year’s worth of harvest, gone, just like that.

Coffee flowers are expected to start blooming by the end of October, which turns into beans by January. But with irregular temperatures, they could dry up and die along the process. (Justin Paolo Interno)

In our conversations, they admit that the town’s coffee industry is dying and that a mural in Amadeo’s entry point would be the best way to remember the once glorious coffee industry in their town. These coffee farmers would point fingers at ageing shrubs, worsening acidity, land conversion, government aid mismatch, or decrease in younger workforce. They did not, however, explicitly mention any blame associated with climate change.

This mural, inaugurated recently, was intended to preserve Amadeo’s coffee culture. Some townspeople admitted that this might be the town’s last memory of its once vibrant coffee industry. (Source: Proud Caviteno)

I was surprised, although I honestly have expected this scenario. In the past years, climate change still remains a buzzword for some Filipinos, more so in rural areas and remote communities. A number would even think that it is as simple as changing weather conditions day by day. What’s more saddening is that some still do not believe it exists at all.  

The concept of climate change remained out of Amadeo farmers’ common interests; they somehow know how to adapt to its varying circumstances. They may tend to intercrop some other species like bananas or coconut with their coffee to control their farms’ microclimate or put planks against their trees to anticipate unexpectedly strong typhoons and pray while the winds destroy them. But they can only do so much. Indeed, they may be fighting an enemy they never knew.

This typical coffee-banana intercrop used by the locals is believed to preserve the area’s microclimate, making coffee production more plausible. (Justin Paolo Interno)

It was climate change that disrupted their cropping patterns.

It was climate change that burnt their potential harvests.

It was climate change that was threatening the coffee industry in Amadeo.

And maybe, just maybe, they would’ve fought better if they knew.

Is there really nothing else that could be done? I know there is. It is in our hands.

About the author

Justin Paolo Interno is a Climate Reality Leader trained during the 2020 Global Training. He is currently an information officer at the Agricultural Training Institute. He also serves as the executive director of ANAHAW Laguna, a youth-led organization advocating for agriculture and environmentalism for community development in the province of Laguna. A licensed agriculturist and an extension practitioner, he creates digital content highlighting the agricultural industry, including its environmental aspect.