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Coffee, Cocoa, and the Cutting Edge

Deforestation is threatening crop diversity and jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of poor small farmers around the world. But innovative technologies and better access to financing can help farmers to counter some of these risks.

WASHINGTON, DC – That morning ritual loved by millions, a simple cup of coffee, may one day be a thing of the past. New research shows that 60% of the world’s 124 species of wild coffee face a mounting threat of extinction, mostly as a result of deforestation. This potential loss of genetic diversity would, in turn, limit the ways in which coffee could be adapted to a changing climate and disease threats.

It’s not just coffee that is in danger. Deforestation is also threatening cocoa and the future of chocolate. Forest loss in the Amazon is eliminating wild relatives of cocoa, while in West Africa it is quickly depleting soils and making crop cultivation much harder. Soil depletion, along with aging trees and the increased risk of pests and disease, is threatening the livelihoods of the already-poor small farmers who produce the vast majority of the world’s cocoa and coffee. 

With 25 million coffee producers and up to six million cocoa farmers (and their families) worldwide, any effort to end this cycle of human and natural-resource poverty must match the size and scope of the problem. Fortunately, the smart use of cutting-edge technology makes it possible to take on the challenge.

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