For the last decade, experts have reported a dramatic decline in honey bee population that has been felt globally. Some of the hardest working pollinators, bees are an essential component to agricultural production. The coffee industry is no exception. It's common knowledge that fruit bearing plants enlist the help of more mobile agents (insects, wind, birds, and mammals) to complete their reproduction cycle. However, with scientists predicting a significant drop in Latin American coffee production by 2050, researchers and organizations are joining efforts to curb this decline. A number of experts have settled into corners of Latin America to discover exactly how much of an impact honey bees have on coffee production, and how production can be improved. Meanwhile, our good buddies at Food 4 Farmers are helping coffee dependent communities with a program called Café y Miel (Coffee and Honey).
According to Global Coffee Report, Smithsonian researcher, Dave Roubik, PhD, who has been working in Panama, discovered that "bees account for 36% of coffee production, of which 25% was due to honey bees." Anyone's ears should perk at the mention of 36% of anything, but understanding how significantly bees impact coffee production is just the first step. Researchers have also discovered that coffee plants growing near forests or amongst shade trees result in 20% higher coffee cherry production compared to coffee plants grown in direct sun. Basically, bees need some shade to work as hard as they do!
Food 4 Farmers is teaching communities in Mexico and Guatemala the benefits of beekeeping. Food 4 Farmers primarily helps coffee farming families combat seasonal hunger by teaching them how to diversify their income. They began teaching families to raise and care for honey bees a few years ago, the effects of which have been far more beneficial than anticipated. In addition to strengthening a community's food security during lean times, their honey bees also increase the community's food production as well as coffee production. The Café y Miel program has proven to be such a success that other Latin American communities are eager to participate.
Experts say climate changes will present a variety of unprecedented challenges in the coming decades. Researchers around the world are working diligently to get ahead of some of these impending challenges. Organizations like Food 4 Farmers are helping to bridge the gap between research and practical applications. Coffee supplies are still steady, for now, as are other food industries, but the role bees play in the health of those industries cannot be denied. If you would like to help the folks at Food 4 Farmers with their efforts directly, you may do so here, you can opt to do so upon checkout when purchasing coffee from our website, or, if you're a local patron and would like to visit our retail store, we always take collections to be matched dollar-for-dollar at the end of the year. And while it may not directly help coffee production, here are some ways you can help the bee population in your area.