Ecological Function Assessment in the Colombian Andean Coffee-growing
The Andean Coffee-Growing Region assessment focused on Colombia’s main
coffee region, which is located in the central part of the country in the
Andean Mountains at an elevation between 1,000 and 2,000 meters above sea
level. The regions included in the assessment are: Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda,
Quindío, and the Valle. These areas have both higher population density
and higher economic activity than average for Colombia. Fifty percent of
the land area is currently under human activities, such as cultivation,
In this assessment a spatial temporal comparative study of several social,
economic, demographic and environmental variables at different scales was
undertaken. Change in land cover and phytosanitary factors were the direct
drivers of change in the system. Indirect drivers in the system included
demographic, economic and social-political factors. Human well-being indicators
were based on the population’s overall quality of life. Ecosystem services
were assessed according to supporting, provisioning, and cultural services.
The relationships between drivers of ecosystem changes, ecosystem services
and human well being were identified for the Colombian situation and include
coffee related factors as well as others that might have an important effect
on population well-being.
Ecosystems and their associated services have traditionally been undervalued
and are often ignored in regional decision-making processes. The extent,
location and trends in transformation to and from ecosystems were studied,
as well as the location of rapid changes in the area. Supporting and provisioning
services such as biodiversity and coffee production were also analysed.
In 2002, Colombia was the third, out of 79, coffee producer country, with
an important figure of 9% of the world production, representing around 805.000
has with an average production of 820 kg/ha. (Roldán 2003)
Ecosystem services were assessed at multiple spatial scales, including:
- national level: country level and the main coffee producing region
- regional level: each one of the five departments analysed;
- local level: El Cairo coffee production municipality and a local
window of 2,500 ha within it assessed as an in-depth pilot study
The assessment was initiated by constructing a database with available
information on selected study areas. Many types of demographic, socio-economic,
ecological, and technical (GIS, satellite maps, etc) tools and indicators
were used for the database. During the database collection phase, outreach
to stakeholders at multiple levels was conducted.
Indirect and direct drivers of ecosystem change were assessed for all
of the study regions. These drivers were assessed at the three spatial scales.
The ecosystem assessment of the Colombian coffee-growing region was coordinated
by two institutions: Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resource Research
Institute and Cenicafė, the research branch of the National Federation of
Coffee Growers. The ecosystem assessment was conducted as a pilot project
and was self-funded.
Ecosystem services and human well-being of the region were analysed in
order to determine the needs and direction of sustainable development in
the region. The direct and indirect drivers of ecosystem and human well-being
change were the primary focus of the assessment.
Ecosystems services assessed
Ecosystem and forest cover; agricultural production (coffee, food crop,
cattle); water; ecotourism. Additionally, the effects of ecosystem services
on biodiversity were assessed.
Project Outputs and Results
Results of the assessment indicated that 46% of coffee production in
Colombia is based on the sun resistant Caturra variety. Traditional shade
coffee systems and crop associated systems accounted for 54% of the coffee
production. Antioquia had the most extensive area of land in coffee production
(30%). Although small-scale, community-based growers dominate most of the
region with properties under three hectares, over 50% of the coffee produced
in Quindío was from farms larger than three hectares.
El Cairo was studied on the municipal level, where it was found that
33% of the total area was still under natural cover (although highly fragmented
in the lower areas), and that the rest of the land area was dominated by
shade grown coffee and other agricultural systems and pasture lands. Endangered
bird and ant species were found in the study area of El Cairo. Forest and
paramos experienced particularly high losses of area during the study period
1987-2000, but semi-natural ecosystems, especially in the form of pasture,
increased significantly. Soils of the region had average to low fertility.
The correlation analysis indicate that transformed areas coincided with
areas of high population density and high economic activity, clearly population
and economic activity are influencing the transformation of natural cover
to transformed ecosystems. On the other hand the areas better preserved
coincide with lower values of quality life (according to the Index of quality
life) and higher poverty areas. This results show how people transform the
ecosystem looking for a better human well-being, nevertheless this way is
unsustainable in the future.
- Roldán, D., González, F., Salazar, M., 2003: La cadena del café
en Colombia, documento de trabajo No 29. Ministerio de Agricultura y
Desarrollo Rural -observatorio de agrocadenas Colombia. Bogotá – Colombia.