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While Highly Toxic Insecticide is Phased Out, Coffee Farmers Struggle to Adapt

coffee cherries ripe healthy

A healthy coffee plant with ripening cherries. Photo by Larry Jacobsen.

For decades, coffee farmers have used the hazardous insecticide endosulfan to ward of borer beetles. But that has been changing since the Stockholm Convention negotiated a global ban on the product over a period of years in 2011, and countries like Brazil have proactively banned its import.

Highly toxic, endosulfan presents numerous risks to human health and the environment, both in short-term acute exposure and long-term exposure, so its eradication is naturally a good thing.

(related: World Coffee Research to Lead Groundbreaking Alliance Against Leaf Rust)

But where does its phase-out leave coffee farmers? It’s an important question, and one that the 4C Association and the Pesticide Action Network UK took to heart as embarked last year on a mission to discover and disseminate production methods that can lead to healthy plants without the use of endosulfan.

“The good news is that the phase-out of endosulfan is feasible,” 4C recently announced after the year-long project. “However, there is no blueprint.”

(related: Buy a Bag, Plant a Tree: A Roaster’s Model for Smallholder Sustainability Amid La Roya)

While there may not be a single blueprint, the groups have put together a huge bundle of resources to help producers find their way without endosulfan. The fruits of the groups’ labor include case studies of 14 endosulfan-free farms in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Colombia, guides for individual pest control measures and related background documents, and a comparative chart of control measures.

The groups also released an enlightening series of videos on numerous farms, each following a different management theme. They are:

Cultural Controls

Biological Controls

Physical Controls

Monitoring and Decision Making