Carbon stocks, net cash flow and family benefits from four small coffee plantation types in Nicaragua
Forests, Trees and Livelihoods, 26(3), 183-198 (Papers in refeered scientific journals)
This study sought to identify agroforestry systems with coffee that simultaneously generate financial profits, provide goods for family consumption, and store significant amounts of carbon in aboveground biomass. We studied 27 coffee plantations in Nicaragua, grouped in four typologies defined a priori: C1, full-sun coffee; C2, coffee, bananas and service trees; C3, coffee, bananas, service and timber trees; C4, coffee, bananas, service, timber and fruit trees. Carbon stock in aboveground biomass, agroforestry production (coffee, fruits, bananas, standing timber and firewood), cash costs (hired labor and materials), in-kind costs (family labor and materials produced on the farm), income from sales, and domestic consumption valued in money, were measured to estimate net cash flow, net income and family benefits. Carbon stocks varied from 8.8 Mg ha⁻¹ in full-sun coffee plantations (C1) to 38.6 Mg ha⁻¹ in coffee plantations with diverse shade (C4). Coffee generated the most earnings, but all other agroforestry products contribute positively to net cash flow, net income and family benefits. In shaded coffee plantations, the consumption and sale of coffee, fruits, timber, and other agroforestry products equal the returns from full-sun coffee plantations. This study demonstrates that it is possible to find shaded coffee plantations with high yields and attractive profit (coffee and other agroforestry products) while retaining significant quantities of carbon in aboveground wood. Good crop (coffee) husbandry (inorganic fertilization, pests and diseases control, and yearly coffee pruning) is a pre-requisite for realizing these synergies.