Agriculture and Environment
Coffee Agroforestry: When Economic Development "Makes Peace" with the Environment
Kamis 6 Desember 2018

First upload : 28 September 2017


BOYOLALI- On 5 June 2017, coinciding with World Environment Day, Business Watch Indonesia (BWI), by support from Solidaridad and collaboration with Forestry Farmer Group (KTH) Kepengen Maju conducted the first arabica coffee planting. The coffee will be planted using agroforestry system as an effort to conserve the forest area of Merapi. Agroforestry is planned to be implemented on 500 hectares of land in community forests in Merapi region, including coffee. The activity, performed in Tlogolele Village, Selo Sub-district, Boyolali, is one of the activities in the "Sustainable Merapi Landscape" program.


Coffee agroforestry is selected as one of the efforts for environmental conservation because it provides economic and environmental benefits. Communities may receive additional income by processing coffee without having to cut the trees, thus it may help maintaining carbon and groundwater reserves in the landscape. Until now, people make use of community forests only for timber and grass for cattle.


"With the first coffee plantation in the forest, the community will get additional income, second so that the forest is more guarded and not bald, the third prevent environmental damage in Tlogolele Village," explained Widodo, Tlogolele Village Head.


17th Century, Coffee Arrived in Java

Coffee is not a new flora in Java. In 1696, the Dutch brought coffee seeds from Malabar, India, to Java Island. At that time, coffee was cultivated in Kedawung, a plantation near Batavia, but failed due to earthquakes and floods. The second cultivation was then attempted by using the coffee tree cuttings from Malabar. This method proved to produce excellent quality coffee, which was then used as a seed for coffee plantations in Indonesia, including Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali, and Timor.


Three species of coffee have been cultivated in Indonesia. The first coffee species cultivated in Indonesia was arabica. At that time, agricultural practices and pest control had not been as advanced as today, so when leaf rust stretched in 1878, the easiest way was to change the coffee species from arabica to liberica. The same disease turned out to attack the liberica coffee, so in 1907, robusta coffee began to be cultivated. Robusta coffee is more resistant to leaf rust and suitable to be planted in the lowlands.


Although the liberica and robusta species are more resistant to leaf rust, but the characteristics of arabica coffee are more preferred. Therefore, liberica and robusta coffee which are sold more as commercial coffee is generally of low quality.


Indonesia coffee, which is mostly cultivated in the Java region, was once famous around the world. Even the term appears among coffee lovers was "Drinking Java means drinking coffee".


Merapi Coffee

In the Dutch colonial era, one of the areas that had cultivated coffee was Merapi. There are at least three districts in the area of Merapi which became coffee plantations, which are Sleman (DI Yogyakarta), Klaten, and Boyolali (Central Java). The government has also developed coffee cultivation in Merapi intensively in 1984 and 1992.


However, the area of coffee plantation in Merapi area has decreased due to eruption and land conversion function. Coffee farmers at the time did not pay much attention to post-harvest coffee processing, so they tended to sell coffee in raw form or wet beans. As the result, the coffee was thought to be less able to compete with other commodities. Because of this, in 1995, the coffee plantation turned to vegetable and tobacco gardens.


Arabica Slowly Took Over Robusta Market

The condition is very unfortunate, considering Indonesia is known as the fourth largest coffee producer in the world, after Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. Central Bureau of Statistics said that 90 percent of coffee plantations in Indonesia are worked on by the society and the areas tend to increase during the period of 1980 to 2016. In 1980, the coffee areas were only about 700 thousand hectares, compared to 2016 where the areas of 2016 reached 1.2 million hectares.


Of the area, robusta coffee still dominate Indonesian coffee production. In 2014, from 643,857 tons of Indonesian coffee production, 73.57% or 473,672 tons are robusta, while the remaining 170,185 tons are arabica coffee. However, the area and production of arabica coffee tend to increase because this type of coffee usually has a special flavor and aroma that cannot be found in coffee liberica and robusta. A 2004 study stated that 66% of world coffee production is a type of arabica coffee.


Area of Society’s Coffee in Indonesia according to the Type of Coffee (Pusdatin, 2016)


Robusta Coffee (Hectar)



















Back To The Agroforestry System For Coffee Sustainability

According to an international organization working on coffee commodities - International Coffee Organization (ICO), coffee consumption in the world tends to increase. By 2015/2016, the world's population consumes about 9 million tons of coffee. This figure is up about 1.3% when compared with coffee consumption in 2012/2013.


This trend attracted coffee growers to boost their coffee production. One way to do this was to change how to plant it. When first introduced, coffee is cultivated in the forest, under the auspices of other crops. But this way slowly turns into a monocropping system, where coffee is planted in a stretch, in the absence of other plants.


But many studies have stated different things. Coffee cultivation with a monocropping system actually provides many losses, among which coffee crops are becoming more susceptible to high temperatures and pests, the soil becomes dry faster and infertile. Especially in the present time, where extreme weather is increasingly common. This causes coffee plants to be vulnerable to disease and reduce productivity. As a result, the use of fertilizers and pesticides tends to increase, which means to increase coffee production costs.


Going back to the agroforestry system is a way which many coffee farmers do today to ensure they can continue to earn income from coffee. The trees that overshadow the coffee help reduce the heat that hit the coffee tree, so the climate for coffee growth is more manageable. A stable climate ensures that coffee trees grow well and produce high quality coffee. In addition, with shade trees which also have economic value, farmers have at least two additional sources of income.


Not only giving goodness to coffee, the agroforestry system plays a role in protecting the soil and the environment. Shade trees help reduce evaporation of groundwater, so the soil does not dry easily. The moist soil will not easily erode, especially by the wind. Shade trees help maintain the fertility of the surrounding soil, because the leaves and twigs that fall, if left untouched, they will decay naturally and become a natural compost fertilizer.


Implementation of agroforestry system in coffee is one example that to get better income, we do not have to ignore environmental sustainability. Even with maintaining and preserving the environment, there will be more benefits.