Birds and Coffee: A success story of traditions' rediscovery and bird conservation in Venezuela
Community-based conservation is always both challenging and inspirational. Birds and Coffee were not going to be an exception. Even though is challenging, the reward and satisfaction of witnessing farmers and local communities involved in the process and committed to their traditions, worth it.
Birds and Coffee work to preserve the endangered tropical dry forests in northern Venezuela, which are home to the Venezuelan Red Siskin (El cardenalito in Spanish) and hundreds of native and migratory bird species; through the implementation of agroforestry crops such as coffee, banana and other fruit trees. The model allows sustainable use of forests, while improving the economic income of producers, generating benefits for local communities and conserving biodiversity.
Since 2016, the team led by Luis Arrieta, a passionate agronomist and coffee lover, started working with the communities of Piedra de Cachimbo and La Florida, which are located in northern Venezuela, specifically in the Cordillera de La Costa.
The project have trained and engaged more than 80 producers through workshops and technical support. They have implemented the environmental-friendly farming techniques learned in order to achieve efficiency and better yields in their production.
Producers have learned about Specialty Coffee processing techniques, which will allow them to access a new and competitive market where they have more possibilities of obtaining higher income for a superior quality product.
The ornithologists recorded more than 230 resident birds and 8 important migratory bird species in the study are, which include:
Among other major achievements, we can mention the creation of the Civil Association of Agroforestry Producers - Piedra e ’Cachimbo and Florida (ACAFLO in Spanish), constituted with the objective of supporting and accompanying the certification process of coffee crops that was carried out in December 2019.
Now, 39 production units (UP) obtained organic certification under the standards of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-NOP) and the organic standards of the European Economic Community (EEC). Additionally, 13 of these 39 UPs obtained the Bird-Friendly Certification following the standards of the Smithsonian Institution. This represents a major opportunity that values the production of coffee and other items and conserves habitat for biological diversity.
We have celebrated two editions of the "Coffee grower day", as part of the activities to rescue the communities' traditions. During the celebrations, the farmers and the families enjoyed a special day with games, traditional dances and coffee tasting.
What comes next?
By 2021 we aim to expand the project's impact area to 400 hectares by adding new producers through model plots in neighboring areas; we will bring to them the capacity building and technical assistance program that we have successfully implemented since 2017.
Our dream is to create a protected reserve where the local communities can coexist with the vas biodiversity that inhabit the tropical dry forests in Venezuela, through agroforestry practices.
Birds and Coffee is part of the Red Siskin Inititive (RSI), Iniciativa Cardenalito. An international association working to preserve and restore wild populations of the Endangered Red Siskin (El cardenalito, Spinus cucullatus). The main partners of the RSI are the Venezuelan NGO,Provita, the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC) and the Smithsonian Institution. The project is a reality thanks to the support of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the American Bird Conservancy and the British Embassy in Caracas.
My name is Valentina, I work in the Coordination and Communications of the RSI. I am a biologist and conservationist. I am happy for being able to share this story with you because I am convinced that this project represents a life-changing experience for these farmers and their families.
Birds and Coffee is a reality thanks to the work of many outstanding and valuable professionals:
Miguel Arvelo, Coordinator, Kate Rodríguez-Clark, Scientist expert advisor, Brian Coyle, Scientist expert advisor, Luis Arrieta, Technical leader, Williams Bermúdez, Agronomist, Diego Benitez, Biologist, Mariana Marcano, Anthropologist, Ricmary Bron, Project Management, Génesis Cardozo, Biologist, Mauricio Iranzo, Sociologist, Ingrid Zager, Project Management, Ada Sánchez-Mercado, Scientist expert advisor, Jhonathan Miranda, Ornithologist, Laurie Fajardo, Scientist botanical expert, Pablo Lau, Ornithologist, Milagros Lovera, Biologist,, Michael Braun, Scientist expert advisor.