Bird Friendly® coffee is now available in the European market. A sixth-generation Dutch coffee roasterie, Simon-Lévelt Coffee and Tea, now offers Bird Friendly® coffee through its stores in The Netherlands and Belgium. The coffee is certified as Bird Friendly® by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and refers to organic certified shade-grown coffee grown that provides substantial habitat for migratory and resident birds in tropical landscapes. This program linking science, conservation, and the marketplace is unique within the Smithsonian Institution.
“Shade-grown” refers to the way coffee has been traditionally farmed. For generations, coffee shrubs have been planted in the shade of tall trees, making these traditional coffee plantations excellent homes for birds and other forest-dwelling wildlife.
Over the past 30 years, more than half of the traditional shade-grown coffee farms in Latin America have been converted to “sun-coffee” farms to increase production. This newer method entails clearing or thinning the shade trees and growing coffee plants under full or nearly full sun conditions. These changes also demand the use of agrochemicals like synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to counter the effects of eliminating the shaded agroforestry system.
Unfortunately, scientists believe that the conversion from shade to sun coffee contributes to the decline in numbers of many of our birds that migrate to Latin America.
|Sun coffee farm (left) and traditional shade coffee farm (right).|
In addition to birds, shade-coffee plantations provide habitat for myriad insects, orchids, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other less well-known denizens of tropical forests. Furthermore, shade trees provide nutrients and suppress weeds, thus reducing or eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and herbicides, and lowering farming costs.
Farmers also harvest an assortment of fruits, firewood, lumber, and medicines from the shade trees. These products make families less vulnerable to coffee price fluctuations on the world market—fluctuations that accompany any cash crop that is also a global commodity.
Back to Simon-Lévelt and the availability of Bird Friendly® coffee in Europe: the company has a history of being blessed with vision and ahead of its time in terms of corporate responsibility. As an early supporter of the fair trade movement, Simon-Lévelt helped to co-found the Max Havelaar Foundation (a Fair Trade organization).
And aside from fair prices for coffee producers, the company’s leadership has long been a proponent of environmental responsibility, as witnessed from its early support of organic coffee and involvement with the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM).
Initial offerings of the Bird Friendly® coffee are now appearing in the specialty coffee shops throughout The Netherlands (32 in number) and Belgium (7 in number), as well as 350 health food stores across The Netherlands. Expansion into other countries like France and some Scandinavian markets figures into the company’s longer range plans.