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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 280-292

Political Ecology of Shade Coffee: Perspectives from Jamaican Blue Mountain Farmers


Current Affiliation: American Bird Conservancy, The Plains, Virginia, USA; Research Undertaken at: Humboldt State University, Arcata, California, USA

Correspondence Address:
Wendy C Willis
Current Affiliation: American Bird Conservancy, The Plains, Virginia, USA; Research Undertaken at: Humboldt State University, Arcata, California
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_18_156

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Jamaica's Blue Mountains are heralded as one of the world's premier coffee growing regions. Previous ecological research in Jamaica has demonstrated that shade-grown coffee practices provide beneficial ecosystem services for farmers, yet most coffee farms in the Blue Mountains have very little shade. The socio-ecological factors that influence coffee cultivation choices in Jamaica have not been analysed. Using chains of explanation, the aim of this project was to unearth the political, economic and ecological drivers and constraints that inform and influence farmers' decisions for intercropping shade trees amongst their coffee plants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted on farm-sites in the three parishes of the Blue Mountains: Portland, St. Andrew, and St. Thomas. Results from this project reveal that the human-environment interactions of coffee producers are impacted by the interplay of on-farm, on-island, and global forces. This necessitates reframing the value of ecosystem services provided by shade trees into a cohesive argument that resonates with Jamaican coffee industry specialists and the specific regional socio-ecological needs of Blue Mountain coffee farmers. Priorities for change should include: encouraging communities to re-learn the benefits and applications of organic soil fertility and the values of shade trees while exposing farmers to marketing research and strategies for pursuing conservation of coffee niche markets.


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