Ensuring Bird Friendly habitats while promoting social and economic justice
We help coffee producers and their communities achieve USDA organic and Smithsonian Bird-Friendly® agroforestry certification to increase habitat for Red Siskins and migratory birds and build environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
Birds and Coffee
Sustainable agroforestry practices in the tropics reduce harmful pesticide use and erosion, conserve water resources, and provide habitat for birds and other animals. In Venezuela, shade coffee and shade cocoa farms have a long history and a reputation for excellent quality, however, economic turmoil and a lack of understanding about benefits of agroforestry over conventional farming has led to an increase in deforestation of agricultural lands. Smithsonian Bird Friendly® certification is the gold standard for agroforestry certification – requiring organic production, at least 40% canopy cover and a minimum diversity of 10 native tree species on the farm. By supporting farmers to become Bird Friendly certified through education and strong financial incentive we are bringing benefits to communities, to birds – and to coffee and chocolate lovers! A win-win-win!
The RSI also provides a variety of support to farmers to help them propagate and plant native tree species and to improve farming management and processing practices, which increases product quality and yield. As a result, demand for Bird Friendly certified coffee in Caracas outstrips supply and BF certified farmers working with RSI are making ten times more profit than they were before entering the program while increasing yield by seven fold. Thus, in addition to protecting and enhancing biodiversity, the Bird Friendly® approach is also a powerful tool for economic justice as well as heritage preservation for a traditional lifestyle and agriculture based community culture that had been steadily disappearing.
In the future, we plan to reintroduce Red Siskins on agroforestry systems, especially near large areas of suitable protected forest habitat. These farms will not only serve as safe habitats for the Red Siskin, but they also help many migratory birds and other species. In the mountains on the north-central coast of Venezuela, where nearly all coffee farms are already organic, 13 farmers in Piedra de Cachimbo and La Florida have achieved Bird-Friendly certification and many more are working towards it. More than 60 farmers have joined the project since 2017, and we hope to have 92 hectares BF certified and 136 organic certified by the end of 2023. By continuing to expand this area of sustainable agroforestry we are also helping to create an important wildlife corridor that increases connectivity between three national protected areas located in the world’s richest biodiversity hotspot, the tropical Andes; Henri Pittier National Park, Macarao National Park and Pico Codazzi Natural Monument.
In Guyana, the South Rupununi Conservation Society is the most important RSI partner and has created a internationally recognized model for community based conservation. Through education, training, coalition building and economic incentives through eco-tourism, the SRCS has helped create the first Important Bird & Biodiversity Area in Guyana, which will forever help protect habitat for Red Siskin and the many other species that share it. Their conservation education and engagement programs to local schools and communities has been remarkably effective at spreading greater awareness and appreciation of the area’s amazing biodiversity.
2022 Achievements coming soon
● Phase 3 of the RSI Birds and Coffee project
Thanks to renewed support from American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) we started the 3rd phase of the Birds and Coffee project.
This phase will increase protections to over 718 hectares in the previous target communities and expand to new communities, and other shade crops as well as add some 200 new hectares of protected forests for biodiversity in Venezuela.
● Longterm sustainability requires a commitment to training
Thanks to support from the Small Grants Program (SGP) of the Global Environment Facility we have provided training to more than 70 coffee producers in the construction and implementation of climate-smart technologies. We have built 20 drying chambers and mycorrhizae units, 8 tanks with beneficial microorganisms and delivered materials for the construction of 40 biols (a type of organic fertilizer). Finally, during our technical visit we conducted a COVID-19 awareness and prevention workshop to help farmer members of the ACAFLO agroforestry association and their families stay safe while remaining productive.
● ACAFLO producers have a website! You can visit it HERE.
The new ACAFLO website is undoubtedly an important achievement towards the consolidation of this organization as an example for new initiatives and regions of the country. ACAFLO is taking a leadership role locally and nationally to empower producers and promote best practices in agroforestry management for the benefit of nature and people.
● Birds and coffee: protecting the Red Siskin, and 200 more species!
In 2021, RSI completed a new bird census in the framework of the project, which is supported by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund, administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. This census resulted in total observations of more than 30 thousand individual birds belonging to a total of 221 resident species and more than 10 migratory species that inhabit the Birds and Coffee project area.
2020 – 2018
- We helped farmers establish the Asociación de Productores Agroforestales de Piedra e Cachimbo y La Florida (ACAFLO), composed of producers committed to the implementation of environmentally friendly coffee cultivation practices.
- We monitored the deforestation rate of the project area and found a reduction in the loss of forest in parcels involved in the project.
- We identified 237 resident bird species and 10 migratory species in the study area.
- We completed the first vegetation inventory for the project and identified 18 native tree species suitable for shade crops.
- We produced a manual for Good Agroforestry Practices, freely available online (in Spanish)
- In Venezuela, 80 producers were trained in best shade-farming practices with us. Ten of fourteen training workshops were delivered in the
- We hosted interactive outreach events on Coffee Grower Day and World Migratory Bird Day.
- In December 2019, 39 Production Units (UP) obtained organic certification under the standards of USDA and the European Economic Community. 13 of these 39 UPs were certified Smithsonian Bird Friendly®
- More than 38,000 seedlings of trees and coffee were established in 39 plant nurseries, each located on a participating farm.
- 78 families were interviewed to evaluate needs and attitudes.
- Supported by US Fish and Wildlife Service Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund, the American Bird Conservancy and the Smithsonian Institution, RSI started a project to preserve the Critically Endangered Venezuelan tropical dry forest, which serves as habitat for the Red Siskin, for migratory birds and many other species.
- In 2017, in partnership with Mantuano Chocolate and Café Arábica, we began producing a Special Edition Chocolate bar, made with the finest certified organic cacao and organic coffee produced on shade-crop farms in Red Siskin habitat.
- IF YOU ARE A PRODUCER Who wants to implement shade-crop farming practices
- IF YOU ARE A ROASTER Who wants to support the work of local producers and purchase Bird Friendly® certified coffee
- ANYONE who wants to contribute to the conservation of tropical forests and birds biodiversity