Wake Up and Smell the Organic Coffee

Dorianne Rowan-Campbell is an organic coffee farmer in Jamaica.
Taking over her father’s farm in 1992 and turning it into an
organic one was a huge risk at the time. However, she sustainably
grows 1,800 coffee trees and harnesses nature to deal with pests,
rather than using pesticides. Courtesy: Dorienne Rowan-Campbell

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Feb 20 2019 (IPS)

In 1992, replanting her father’s ruined coffee farm seemed
foolhardy at the time. But in retrospect it was the best business
decision that Dorienne Rowan-Campbell, an international
development consultant and broadcast journalist, could have

Nearly three decades later, Rowan-Campbell grows organic coffee
on her two hectare, Rowan’s Royale farm. The nearly 60-year-old
farm is situated on a steep slope western Portland, a parish
northeast of Jamaica overlooking the famous Blue Mountains, known
for their coffee plantations.

Rowan-Campbell is a select grower of the famous Jamaica Blue
Mountain coffee, one of the most rare and expensive coffees,
favoured for making delectable espresso.

“I was foolhardy I just wanted to get up in the mountains and
try farming,” Rowan-Campbell tells IPS about her foray into
growing coffee, an energy-boosting beverage loved the world over,
which may well become scarce, thanks to climate change.

Shifting to organic farming a big risk but not for

Growing organic coffee was a major shift from conventional
coffee farming but it was a big bet. Her father grew coffee the
conventional way using polluting pesticides, herbicides and
industrial fertilisers to manage pests and diseases while
maintaining soil nutrition. She cultivates over half a hectare of
the farm with more than 1,800 coffee trees.

“Organic came [about] because everyone said ‘You need a big
50-60 gallon drum to mix pesticides’ and I thought not me,”
says Rowan-Campbell, a former Commonwealth Director of the Women
and Development Programme at the Commonwealth Secretariat in

She beat the odds of having initially a poor knowledge about
organic farming. Her husband and small staff were trained in
organic farming techniques. And the organic farming experiment
worked. In 2002, BCS OEKO-GARANTIE in Germany—which certifies
some 35 percent of all organic products in the country— certified
the farm organic.

Since 2004, it has been inspected and certified annually by the
Certification of Environmental Standards (CERES), an organic
certification agency that uses the presence of birds as one
indication of environmental balance.

A 2006 study, by Humbolt University and the University of the
West Indies, into birds as vectors of pest control found that
although Rowan’s Royale was the smallest farm in the sample, it
had the most birds, the greatest variety of birds and the least
coffee berry borer (a beetle harmful to coffee crops).

“As an organic farmer, I have to harness nature and work with
it because we do not use any chemicals on my farm. I have insects
and birds and they eat more than 50 percent of any pests that would
attack my coffee so the quality of the coffee is naturally
protected,” she says, explaining that she mulches and prepares
natural compost for the coffee trees and manages pests and diseases
with natural chemicals.

“We have coffee rust disease right now, decimating the coffee
industry in Central, South America and the Caribbean. Some people
are using extremely strong chemicals to deal with it. I use a
mixture of garlic and water. It works, and I share it with all the

An estimated 4,000 farmers are growing Blue Mountain Coffee in
Jamaica. This year Rowan-Campbell expects to harvest up to four
tonnes of coffee beans and is marketing the coffee in America,
Europe and Asia.

Dorianne Rowan-Campbell’s farm is a select producer of the
famous Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, one of the most rare and
expensive of coffees, favoured for making delectable espresso.
Courtesy: Dorienne Rowan-Campbell

Beating climate change

Once Rowan-Campbell packed a packaged, a box with various coffee
roasts and sent it to Prince Charles, the future king of England
via a courier. But he never got it.

“He had asked about organic coffee and was told there was
none,” she remembers. “Organic farming is an adaptation
strategy against climate change and I try to teach others.”

Coffee is vulnerable to temperature change as it only grows at
specific temperatures around the tropics.

Scientific research is showing that climate change will reduce
coffee growing areas around the world by up to 88 percent by 2050.
It has become necessary for more than 25 million coffee farmers in
more than 60 tropical countries to adapt to climate change using a
blend of techniques such as shade improvement and crop

“Our results suggest that coffee-suitable areas will be
reduced 73–88 percent by 2050 across warming scenarios, a decline
46–76 percent greater than estimated by global assessments,”
says a study by the PNAS journal.

Coffee is the second most commonly traded commodity in the
world, trailing only as a source of foreign exchange to developing
countries, according to the
International Coffee Organisation.

Bouyed by global demand for organic produce, Rowan-Campbell—an
active member of the Jamaica Organic Agriculture movement—is also
growing root vegetables and makes organic jams and marmalade.

“For me organic farming it is the most important thing in
farming because it says you are building a sustainable future for
your great [grand] children,” she said.

However, what has made organic farming work? “Probably love
and passion,” she says.

“I think it is important that in Jamaica we have this
wonderful flavour of coffee. It is a gift because coffee is grown
at a certain elevation and the soil is good.

“When I started, I did not know I was taking such a major step
in Jamaica. I have many women who come to me and say they want to
grow organic.”

Since 2004, the farm purchased by her father in 1960 has
weathered four hurricanes with Hurricane Dean in 2007 damaging
close to 70 of the coffee trees. Despite this, Rowan-Campbell says
organic methods have prevented landslides and soil erosion on the

Rowan-Campbell is a certified inspector and trains other famers
in organic farming and promoting certification. Last year she was
part of an initiative to develop a Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
standard for organic coffee production.

Organic coffee farmers in Jamaica have had to overcome the
challenges of poor regulations for organic coffee, high license
fees and local certification.

Rowan-Campbell says she has no plans of expanding the business.
She wants to keep it small, efficient, profitable and delivering
high quality export coffee.

“I am meticulous. I want only well ripened cherries and I reap
a little at a time. No big pay-out at end of the day, but
sustainable production and high quality coffee.”

The post Wake Up
and Smell the Organic Coffee
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Wake Up and Smell the Organic Coffee