Coffee growing in Haiti started in the 18th century when it was a French colony. They then grew a special variety, the original Arabica typical, that was renowned especially in France and Italy. The coffee industry thrived well in those early years. Unfortunately, soon that industry was disrupted by many things.
Between political changes (including government corruption and political unrest) the U.S. embargo of the 1990s and other factors, farmers were reduced to harvesting their coffee trees to make charcoal. Meanwhile, Brazil and Indonesia rose to meet the growing coffee demands of the world, and became superstars in the coffee-growing world, putting yet another obstacle in place for Haitian coffee growers.
Haitian coffee farmers were able to make a comeback with a now well-known variety, Haitian Bleu, only to become beset with old problems of bribery and corruption from officials, and then natural disasters.
Despite it all, coffee growing is still vitally important to some farmers in Haiti. But new challenges await them. This time, it’s climate change. With temperatures warming up, climate change is bad news for these coffee farmers. Anton Eitzinger with The Center for Tropical Agriculture said, "Where coffee is strongly affected by climate change, we need to think about diversification to other crops.” For Haitians that might mean looking at other valuable crops such as mangoes and cocoa. By diversifying their crops, farmers could hopefully stabilize their futures without depending on the heat-sensitive coffee bean.
Currently, some farmers are trying out new-to-them varieties from Colombia that are more acclimatized to heat. It will take a couple more years to see if these and other techniques help stave off the effects of rising temperatures. In the near future, some coffee farmers may need to find new land, higher up where colder weather prevails, to continue farming coffee.
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