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YBC @ Sustainable Coffee Challenge “All-Partner Meeting” (2024)

The Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) was once again represented at the annual, global “All-Partner Meeting” of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge (SCC); A two-day event that took place March 5-6 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Just like last year’s event, proponents of the YBC, Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), were in attendance along with delegates from some of the largest coffee companies in the world, including Nestlé, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee, Keurig Dr Pepper, JM Smucker, Lavazza and Starbucks.

The general purpose of this event is to bring SCC members together and foster industry collaboration aimed at addressing the current social and environmental sustainability issues within coffee supply chains. The environmental organizations chosen to help lead the 2-day meeting include Conservation International (CI) and Rainforest Alliance (RFA), although more than 30 coffee-related corporations and organizations send delegates to attend as workshop speakers and participants.

This year’s presentations focused on sustainability trends, strategies for dealing with coffee’s carbon footprint, and social compliance & value distribution along the supply chain. The industry is clearly favouring an “insetting” strategy and is promoting the start of a carbon footprint baseline study. “Break-out” sessions with activities were also included, allowing participants the chance to exchange ideas and engage in insightful conversation.

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Official YBC Designation Has Reached Final Stage

Proponents of the Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) are celebrating because they have finally reached the last step in the submission process for obtaining the corridor’s official government designation status. 🎉

This official designation process utilizes a unique Honduran “forest corridor” law to specify the forests within the corridor borders for restoration and protection in the interest and to the benefit of local communities. The main proponents involved include Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI) and the partner organizations that work to publish this website.

The final step is to submit four “constancias” (i.e. records), and once designation is established YBC will become the largest protected biological forest corridor in Central America and a world example for other tropical forests!

What This Official Corridor Designation Accomplishes

In its most basic sense, the “forest corridor” designation officially recognizes the name “Yoro Biological Corridor” as it pertains to the boundaries of its community with shared values around the desire to improve their lives while protecting their ecosystems. By officially recognizing the name it creates an environment for easier collaboration to both form and meet shared goals.

The designation must be recognized by the municipal governments, forest co-managers, and all other stakeholders including the local communities. Reaching this final step in the corridor submission process is exciting news is for YBC proponents, whom have spent the past five years engaging in the process, which is newly forming and has changed along the way.

In terms of on-the-ground accomplishments the designation is primarily aimed at linking and restoring the existing forests parks, followed by establishing local monitoring for carbon sequestration, engaging and supporting indigenous communities, and developing revenue systems that incentivize protection of the corridor’s forest ecosystems.

History & Scope of the Process to Date

The original YBC proponent, MDI, has been working through the process since 2016, making YBC the first forest corridor in Honduras to submit for designation. Given that YBC is a large-scale project, the process of community awareness and approval has been more complex than with smaller initiatives. The Ordinary Meeting of the General Assembly of MAMUDEC (association of municipalities) held in the municipality of Meambar was an example of what the government refers to as the “socialization” process.

Since the time that the application for YBC was submitted another significantly smaller, forest corridor managed to obtain approval for an eco-tourism venture in Honduras, which is good news for the process. Once YBC obtains official status it will become the largest corridor in Honduras with the most multi-sector participation to date.

The Yoro Biological Corridor spans 12,603 square kilometers and includes 10 protected areas including four national parks, as well as the nation’s two largest watersheds: The Ulúa River basin and the Aguan River basin. These watersheds are responsible for satisfying the basic needs of the Honduran population (33 municipalities totaling nearly 900,000 people) including the generation of electrical energy and irrigation of agricultural land.

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Coffee & Carbon Workshop @ Yale University

The Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), proponent of the Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC), was invited to take part in Yale University’s “Coffee & Carbon” workshop last month. The public event took place at the Yale University campus on September 7-8, and brought together coffee industry leaders and the most advanced strategies to address coffee’s unchecked and growing carbon footprint.

The timing of the workshop was significant in light of the new and controversial EU Deforestation laws, which require all EU coffee imports to prove they are not responsible for any deforestation. The main purpose of the Yale workshop was to exchange ideas; discuss what industry actors are doing; and discuss what conditions would enable natural carbon capture to become a working reality.

Summary of the the Presentations:

Among the presentations, there were two different carbon trading programs based on coffee system to compare:

  1. Mesoamerican Development Institute’s (MDI) Yoro Model, which is being prepared for scale-up in the Yoro Biological Corridor; Requires coffee producers to actively restore forest on their lands and that the coffee is processed with renewable energy instead of the burning of firewood (accounting for the original clearing of the forest land in order to farm coffee, the carbon leakage due to mechanized wood/fossil fuel powered coffee dyers, and the ongoing negative impacts of coffee farming on soils and biodiversity).
  2. Solidaridad’s model, in partnership with Conservation International and Rainforest Alliance; Is based on the idea that as long as the coffee cultivation is practiced on previously degraded land (deforested up to 20 years ago) it is eligible for carbon credit generation by measuring the amount of carbon that is sequestered by the coffee plants and surrounding shade trees.

From Our Perspective

Over the course of more than two decades of continuous research, what YBC researchers have learned is that coffee cultivation replaces high elevation tropical forest. We also know that these high elevation forests adjacent to national parks and cloud forest are biodiversity hotspots providing forest habitat for preservation of wildlife and watersheds. As this forest habitat is lost to current business-as-usual coffee cultivation, the local communities and cities and towns downstream are impacted by erosion and loss of water resources.

Richard Trubey, Mesoamerican Development Institute. All Photos Credit: Carbon & Coffee Workshop, YSE 2023.

With the Yoro Model, forest habitat is restored and maintained on coffee farms, sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change, maintaining healthy watersheds, and providing jobs for local youth in operating processing factories powered by renewable energy as well as in monitoring and mapping farms to validate carbon accounting.

Furthermore, it is not really possible for any productive, cultivated coffee plant to be a carbon sink (a.k.a. sequester more than it emits). This is because when you account for the many parts that comprise its footprint (starting with the clearing of forest to grow coffee, the tilling of soil, the loss of biodiversity and moisture, inputs to grow coffee, and the energy it take to process the coffee once picked)—All of these added up give off more carbon emissions than a coffee plant sequesters. The only coffee plants that could potentially qualify as being able to sequester more carbon than they emit, would be wild coffee growing in Ethiopia.

Follow Up

A white paper of conclusions following this event and at least one comment article published in a peer-reviewed paper is planned as the follow-up to this workshop.

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IOC Study Results Presented at NA Bird Conference

A key topic of this year’s “leading North American ornithology conference” put a focus on “afforestation efforts to protect the Golden-winged Warbler”—And, more specifically, how Integrated Open Canopy™ (IOC) coffee farming being tested and implemented in the Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) may prove useful.

(“Ornithology” refers the study of birds; and “Afforestation” refers to the act of converting land into forest, with the goal being to maintain the health and longevity of the forest for its environmental services)

David Murillo, PhD student of University of Massachusetts and long-time researcher with Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), was all set to present the results of his study showing promise for helping save critical Golden-winged Warbler habitat (published just this month by the Spanish academic journal “Sociedad de Ornitología Neotropical”); However, due to inclement weather in Honduras, Dr. David King of the US Forest Service (and associated YBC researcher) presented on Murillo’s behalf.

Murillo’s talk shared the title of his recent publication: “Afforestation efforts for golden-winged warblers and other forest-associated species in Honduras”.

The study is significant because it validates other existing findings that IOC farms provide much-needed habitat for the warblers not found in other coffee farming scenarios. (Results that were originally demonstrated in Costa Rica and now confirmed by Murillo’s study in Honduras).

“The presentation was extremely well received, with very positive feedback from the audience on these initiatives during a panel discussion following the session,” said Dr. King.

More Details

This year’s conference, (an annual joint conference between the American Ornithological Society and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists), was called “Birds as Bridges” and held in London, Ontario from August 8-12th. The conference aims to achieve a broad discussion of research that “spans the breadth of modern ornithology through plenaries, symposia, workshops, roundtable discussions, contributed papers, and posters”.

David Murillo’s “Afforestation efforts for golden-winged warblers and other forest-associated species in Honduras” was presented by Dr. King on Friday, August 11 @ 10:30 a.m. EST.

A copy of Murillo’s recently published study results showing that IOC farms support forest species not present in shade coffee or other habitats can be downloaded from our resources page here.

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Meeting of the 7 Commonwealth Municipalities

A total of 7 municipalities came together for a meeting in Meambar, Honduras that began with an hour-long presentation about the Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) today.

The meeting marks the first joint meeting of all members of a group 7 Commonwealth Municipalities (known as MAMUDEC) and was decorated in celebration of the occasion.

The YBC presentation was given by Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI) researchers, Ana Quiñonez and Raul Raudales, as part of MDI’s efforts to capture and show the unified support of the region’s local mayors.

By the end of the meeting, which was well-attended, the Commonwealth agreed they were all on board with the YBC initiative, indicating that the meeting was a success 🙌

A Fun Film Crew Addition

Alongside the expected meeting attendees (i.e. municipal leaders, local utility managers, community members, and other stakeholders that endorse the YBC) was a film crew capturing it all.

The US-based crew was there to document the process of establishing a legally protected biological corridor, and this meeting was a component of a longer two-week shoot throughout the region.

Film crew evidence 😉
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US Forest Service Compliance Audit: PASS

The US Forest Service carries out rigorous annual audits of its partners and Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) Co-developer, Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI) passed, once again, this year with flying colours. 🎉

This is good news for the forest corridor, and helps bring more transparency and traceability to the YBC project and its initiative to scientifically measure and account for forest carbon offsets.

The audit started on Monday, August 7th and lasted until the 16th.

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Meeting with Indigenous Tribe Tolupan

Meetings with local community members continue, the most recent being with the indigenous tribe “Tolupan” (above). The Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) team met with the Directing Council of the Tolupan Tribe, in the town of El Suntular, to discuss their issues and potential opportunities with the corridor.

The Tolupan population originates from pre-Hispanic times, during which they were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. Today tribes vary in their lifestyles; Some of which include the more traditional hunting with a bow, and even abstaining from contact with strangers, but also some that now include farming. More about the Tolupan here.

The meeting, which was very positive, is important to the YBC project because these Tolupan people live within the geographical borders of the Corridor, and the YBC team is grateful for the opportunity to learn about their needs.

Along for the meeting was Skarleth (below), who is in university studying the costs of organic farming vs. conventional. Skarleth was also hired by the YBC team to work on the 600 coffee farm survey aimed at gauging farmers’ interest in adopting the Yoro Model’s Integrated Open Canopy™ (IOC) coffee farming.

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Addressing Water Issues with ‘Comunidad de Paya’

Paying a visit to this vibrant community in the Yoro region, Honduras last week. The community, called ‘Comunidad de Paya’ resides within the borders of the protected Pico Pijol National Park.

The National Park Service requested that the Yoro Biological Corridor team meet with Comunidad de Paya and discuss issues around water scarcity, trash disposal; as well as present the benefits and solutions offered by the Yoro Biological Corridor program.

110 people were in attendance, motivated by the degrading conditions of the natural water resources they rely on for survival.

The Cuyamapa River that runs through this region is drying up due to the effects of deforestation from coffee production and other agricultural encroachment on intact forest areas.
A view of the deforestation taking place in the surrounding region where the Comunidad de Paya calls home.
Meeting and presentation with ‘Comunidad de Paya’ to address water scarcity issues.
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YBC Central Government Meetings

Proponents of the Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) are marching ahead with government support this month.

Above: Meeting in the Central Government Office (ICF) in Yoro with the Honduran Forest Park & Wildlife Service to discuss next steps with the YBC legal process.

Below: Presenting to the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Yoro Region to build further support.

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YBC @ Sustainable Coffee Challenge “All-Partner Meeting” (2023)

The Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) was represented at the annual, global “All-Partner Meeting” of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge (SCC); A two-day event that took place March 7-8 in Tampa, Florida.

Proponents of the YBC, Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), were in attendance along with delegates from some of the largest coffee companies in the world, including Nestlé, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee, Starbucks, Keurig Dr Pepper, Lavazza and Starbucks. The overall objective of the meeting was bring coffee industry leaders together in one place to address sustainability issues within the industry, including coffee’s carbon footprint and upcoming EU deforestation laws.