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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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New Research Framework Led by Female Scientist

A new research framework designed to best respond to ecological threats across shared landscapes has been officially announced and published. The research is led by a Honduran female scientist and founded on extensive local and traditional knowledge.

Ana Quiñónez Camarillo, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental conservation at University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) and Honduran native; Along with co-author, UMass Amherst Professor of Environmental Conservation, Timothy Randhir, developed this framework to address watershed issues in Lake Yojoa, Honduras; One that is widely applicable to a broad range of ecological threats worldwide.

UMass Amherst published the story, in which Quiñónez Camarillo expresses the critical importance of including local people when designing successful, environmental conservation strategies:

“One of the biggest issues facing international sustainability efforts is that smaller, less economically developed countries often don’t have the resources to conduct nuanced, in-depth surveys of local people and the local environment in the threatened area … And so environmental organizations often wind up pushing a top-down conservation strategy, which may or may not be acceptable to the local people. If the strategy isn’t acceptable, then it may fail, costing time, money, goodwill and further endangering ecological and social health.”

Quiñónez Camarillo and Randhir conducted 224 surveys across 12 communities within the Lake Yojoa watershed and engaged with 24 other stakeholders ranging from private companies to National parks. According to Quiñónez Camarillo, their new framework can be useful in analyzing whether or not big solutions actually affect and reflect the things that people really care about at the grassroots level.

For more Yoro Biological Corridor research, see our Resources page.

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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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New YBC Research Publication

A new scientific study that helps in validating the Yoro Model is out now!

Published in August of this year in the Spanish academic journal “Sociedad de Ornitología Neotropical”, this study validates earlier 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 confirmed by Murillo’s study in Honduras).

The study is titled “Afforestation efforts for golden-winged warblers and other forest-associated species in Honduras” and was a joint effort by authors: David Murillo, Darío Alvarado, Fabiola Rodríguez-Vásquez, Caz Taylor, and David I. King.

For more Yoro Biological Corridor (YBC) research, see our Resources page.

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Important 2023 Coffee Barometer Report Released

An important global coffee report that monitors sustainability claims was released yesterday, and paints the picture that the industry has reached a crisis point in meeting its own climate targets.

“… the coffee sector finds itself immersed in a state of crisis.” … “Amidst the grand claims of sustainability and rosy promises of a prosperous future in coffee agriculture, the harsh reality faced by coffee producers is marked by price volatility and rising production costs … Coupled with rampant inflation and the profound consequences of a rapidly changing climate in the most vulnerable origins.” (2023 Coffee Barometer)

The Coffee Barometer, published at and supported by Conservation International, Solidaridad, Ethos Agriculture and Belgiun and German development agencies, reports on the coffee industry’s attitude and progress towards climate readiness and sustainable supply chains; and is widely recognized as the most accurate “mainstream” depiction of where the coffee industry sits with regards to sustainability.

The last Coffee Barometer report, published in 2020, summed up the “all talk but no action” existing claims and efforts of the biggest coffee corporations, (like Olam, Nestle and Starbucks) as “disappointing”.

This new 2023 report identifies that coffee has now clearly reached a crisis point.

What it Summarizes

  • Coffee growing habitat is at severe risk … Projecting a loss of 45.2% of global Arabica production by 2050 (due to loss of suitable habitat). Poses an even greater threat to existing high elevation forests.
  • The exploitive and extractive nature of coffee will keep millions of growers below the poverty line.
  • The new EU Deforestation Law (10 years in the making) is the first big government regulation requiring commodities like coffee and cocao to prove their supply chains did not contribute to deforestation in order to be approved entry. However, so far the largest coffee companies are challenging the law rather than incorporating the needed changes to be compliant, claiming that the burden will ultimately hurt the farmers.
  • Key finding about coffee’s carbon footprint state an increasing loss of more than 130,000 hectares of forest each year, equaling approximately 45 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions.
  • The coffee industry is opaque and doesn’t disclose the basic information needed for global stakeholders to properly assess supply chains.
  • Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) like Global Coffee Platform (GCP) and Sustainable Coffee Challenge (SCC), that include associations and recognized NGOs, are allowing companies to benefit from media attention that make it seem like they are acting on climate when they aren’t having any impact (essentially green-washing). “[Multi-stakeholder Initiatives] allows them to portray themselves as “taking action” while conveniently sidestepping the more complex and contentious issues.” (2023 Coffee Barometer)

Conclusion & Next Steps

The report paints a scary picture for high elevation tropical forests, coffee farmers, and people all over the world affected by climate change. So, everyone.

But there is hope in action …

From the report: “Clearly, agroforestry should not be seen as a substitute for natural forests, but rather as a means to restore degraded landscapes. Agroforestry has the potential to contribute to global restoration efforts and store vast amounts of carbon, potentially amounting to millions of metric tons.”

The foundation of YBC’s Yoro Model starts with the local community (i.e. farmers) and introduces a new way of growing, processing and trading (i.e. transparent transactions throughout the supply chain). Its multi-disciplinary approach address all of the issues outlined in the report and is here for coffee companies to embrace.

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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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Drone Pilot Training with FUNACH

Flying drones for forest-monitoring is no small undertaking, and relies on having well-trained pilots on-the-ground. Pilots with the Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), who are working on drone maps of the Yoro Biological Corridor (pictured here) are attending a 4-day long workshop/training session in the use, management, and safety of flying drones.

Topics covered in the training included things like civil aeronautical rules, flight tricks for avoiding potential hazards (e.g. obstacles, or interference in the connection with the remote control) and cloud identification for safe flights.

The training was sponsored by FUNACH (Fundación en Acción Comunitaria de Honduras), a project organization that belongs to the group of co-managers of the Yoro Biological Corridor. FUNACH’s development objective is “To ensure food security and increase families’ income through the introduction of sustainable and ecologically sound agricultural production methods.”

And the workshop was taught by FUNACH General Manager, Ángel Irías and Certified Drone Pilot, Miguel Muños.