February 18, 2006

Ape Guru Develops Coffee Certification Scheme

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

ARUSHA, Tanzania -- Ape conservationist Jane Goodall said on Saturday she is developing a new certification scheme for coffee growers farming in areas where endangered chimpanzees live, mainly in Tanzania and Burundi.

Farmers will be encouraged to protect and enlarge forests where the animals have their habitat in return for marketing of their product to roasters interested in paying a premium for environmentally friendly coffee.

"People associate my name with chimpanzees," the environmentalist told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference of African coffee growers.

"By certifying this coffee, we ensure that it is super quality, it complies with environmental standards that benefit the apes and (in return) we give a great deal of money to the farmers by marketing their coffee."

Certification schemes guarantee the product bought by consumers is produced ethically.

Unlike other schemes, the Jane Goodall Conservation Label will target villages -- instead of farms -- which would be willing to give up 10 to 20 percent of their land to enlarge indigenous forests around Tanzania's Gombe National Park.

There are only 80 chimpanzees remaining in the 35 square km park, located in the north of the country, after decades of poaching for the bushmeat trade.

Goodall said the villagers would be required to produce shade-grown coffees, to prevent them from cutting down trees. She did not say when the scheme would be launched.

The Jane Goodall Institute will market the coffee to consumers willing to pay at least $2.0 per pound compared to the 50-60 U.S. cents farmers currently receive for their beans.

"Chimps don't eat coffee; they hate it so there will be no conflict between them and the farmers," she said.

The scheme will then roll out to the Democratic Republic of Congo where chimps provide as much as 90 percent of animal protein for human beings in some areas. The 23 countries in which apes live in the wild are among the world's poorest.

Poverty, encroachment on their habitat caused by logging and population growth, the booming bushmeat trade, disease and climate change are threatening entire species.

Other certification schemes include Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic, Utz Kapeh and Bird Friendly.

Fairtrade focuses on giving farmers a premium to help protect them from the fluctuations of world prices. Utz Kapeh, a Netherlands-based scheme, covers good agricultural practices and worker welfare. The Rainforest Alliance, Organic and Bird Friendly certifications address environmental concerns.

The certification process can be expensive, however, locking out many smallholder farmers too poor to meet requirements.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa)