17 July 2012

Tragedy of the Commons

I was reading about the Western Ghats declared a 'Natural heritage by UNESCO' around the same time The Economist wrote a brilliant 14 page article on the 'The Melting Arctic' last week, and felt there was so much in common between the two. A decision on comparing the two started forming.

So, despite the fact that we are heading towards an unavoidable 2 degree rise, our Himalayan glaciers will soon stop manufacturing our water, not to mention parts of Greenland crashing in 2005 and raising the water level etc. there is still no action happening. Wake up calls have come and gone, but business-as-usual and politics carries on.

Our Western Ghats are the oldest ecosystem in India extending 1,50,000 km (almost) snake-like from Maharashtra upto Kerala ending at Kanyakumari; a treasure trove of wildlife, plants, water, providing valuable services like water, food, carbon sequestration and climate stabilisation. Yet, the state governments of the south choose to reject the UNESCO tag because it will come in the way of their 'treasure hunting'.
Environmentalists, experts, grassroots individuals rejoiced when UNESCO announced the good news a week ago, only left baffled when Karnataka and Kerala governments announced they want the tag off. The Western Ghats is an extraordinary natural heritage of the world, occupying only 6% of India's land surface and holds more than 30% of wildlife species hundreds of endemic medicinal plants. Most importantly it is the birthplace of the river Cauvery which provides water for Karnataka, Kerala and forms catchment areas for a large number of smaller rivers to settlements. Home to over 200 million people who depend upon this biodiversity rich resource for their livelihood and home.

The Arctic region today is probably one of the biggest goldmine's in the 21st century. The presence of hydrocarbons provides huge oil reservoirs in the ocean and experts have found rock deposits on the sea bed which contain precious metals like gold. This is bad, bad news for the Arctic region. With greedy western nations already depleting their own oil reserves and creating much of the global warming, no part of the world seems likely to be spared. The north cap has been largely undiscovered and little knowledge is known being an extremely cold region and virtually inhospitable to access. However, with the ice melt in recent years this land of unknown is slowly transforming without adequate knowledge of what is going to happen. With melting ice, and rising sea levels who knows what is in store for us over the years if this continues.

I was asked recently that development cannot take place without the environment being sacrificed, but if we continue to dig up our Western Ghats and Arctic ice forever the environment will have nothing left for us, and the lasting effect it can have on our ecosystems will be devastating. Wildlife species, depletion of water reserves, and complete and total disregard of the planet will put us in grave future. 

The Western Ghats have faced a lot of destruction which have led to increase in temperatures, man-animal conflict and community dispute. The Arctic is home to many endemic species like the Western Ghats and these creatures will suffer with their food and natural habitat depleting because of two reasons - Ice melt and human interference. Many species in the Western Ghats have not been discovered as yet owing to high density, and many fear are extinct due to mining activities. In the Arctic permafrost in some areas go upto a depth of hundred kilometres, this solid ice contains stored methane and carbon twice the amount already present in the atmosphere. Scientists fear that activities are already stirring this sleeping giant and can prove catastrophic if let loose. The Western Ghats and Arctic region play a huge ecological role in terms of weather and climate control as well, the Arctic is 14,056,000 square km big and melting at a fast pace since warming takes place twice as fast as the rest of the world.

With an uncertain future of our natural reserves and unique wildlife systems, the greatest tragedy of our commons is already taking place if immediate action is not taken to protect ourselves and generations after us to enjoy what we have today.   

By Kavya Chandra

02 July 2012

Climate Change and Weather Woes

The absence of monsoon this year have left tell-tale signs of impending climate change. With July already upon us northern states are yet to receive their rain water supply desperately needed after a long and hot summer period. More than 80% of India has not received its much required water needs this year.

Bangalore recorded the hottest day, temperatures touched 37 degrees celsius in April had everyone remaining indoors, avoiding the sun and witnessed water scarcity problems arising all over. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter shared common comments longing for rain, good weather and weather forecast so days can be planned makes us all wonder whether this year is going to be as bad as last or, worse.

Unatural weather behaviour has affected India, with a country with more than 6 climate subtypes ranging from Himalayan region, arid desserts, coastal locations and sub-tropical areas it is no wonder that we have a complex weather pattern that checks a stable climate and cycle. Climate change has started affecting regions which are most vulnerable to changes; melting glaciers and lake outbursts in the Himalayan region have become a common hazard destroying crops and plantations, wiping out villages  settlements and taking lives. In the Himalayan Meltdown rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Yamuna which originate from this region are heading for big trouble, by 2025 if Himalayan glaciers retreat substantially this will affect the 200 million population of North India who are directly dependent on these rivers for their precious water supply.

Bangladesh has a record of 50 million climate refugees today and is the most affected region in the world to climate change and rising water levels. Cities like Mumbai and Kolkatta have the biggest slum settlements due to migration of rural into urban cities as a result of crop failure, loss of land, unemployment which forces the poor to turn to metros for jobs and end up living in slums adding to problems of choked cities.

Climate change in India hits the poor the hardest who end paying the biggest price and do not have the voice or power to communicate their distress. Our water, food and ecosystem will be the most affected which will spiral into socio-economic problems and loss of economic GDP.  The Indian government wants to see a rise in India's GDP which is currently 9% to 11% in the next few years, but this will only be possible if we attend to the real issues on ground like rural development and employment, clean energy implementation and promoting climate resilient agriculture. Floods need to be controlled with appropriate drainage systems and infrastructure like rainwater harvesting need investment so we save every drop, emergency evacuations systems in vulnerable areas like Bangladesh and Leh-Ladakh region need to be well-equipped and successful.

One of the greatest changes that we can do as a nation is also at a citizens level. I believe that educated, urban born individuals can start doing their bit in a small way that allows them to save precious fuel and electricity costs. Environmental sensitivity should be significant in urban cities which have heavy infrastructure development, the aesthetic needs of merging environmental friendly surroundings with urban development has the potential of becoming a viral phenomenon if we Indians appreciate the natural beauty and fragility of our very ecosystems. It is time we wake up from our stupor.

News links:




By Kavya Chandrahttp://kavya-kavyachandra.blogspot.in/2012/07/climate-change-and-monsoon-woes.html

25 April 2012

Pushing carbon emission bACkWaRdS and Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22, a day where we remind ourselves that we have precious resources to protect; the ground, sky, water and everything above, between and below are reasons why we have been able to come so far in such a short period. This is a day where we remember what we are standing on - The Earth.

Earth Day was celebrated in Bangalore on April 21 2012 with much pomp, song and believe it or not pushing two-wheelers backwards by 200 college students from B.N.M Institute of Technology on a hot Saturday afternoon. Centre for Social Markets and BNM decided that its high time the present gen is reminded about issues of carbon belching, fuel drinking, noisy two-wheelers or just about anything that comes with an engine and how sustainable transport can replace the motor world.
So why two-wheelers? And why pushed backwards which takes a lot of effort? So Bangalore stands no. 1 (and not proudly) of holding the most number of two-wheelers in Bangalore - 26 lakhs. This pretty much outstrips all the rest (stats here) accounting for the increase in carbon emissions, pollution rise and high temperatures which the city has been witnessed in the last few years. Also Bangalore stands no. 3 (very proud here) of holding a young population who rather opt for bikes and scooty peps than cycles. With the number of two-wheelers + 20 somethings in the city this campaign was perfect to encourage our 'push backwards for an earth cause' campaign.

Pushing backwards was an effort to create an awareness of emissions levels caused by two-wheelers ridden by youngsters. We were telling the public become sustainable in your transport pick a cycle, walk or use public transportation, learn to curb those emissions. Learn to protect your environment for your own sake.

We pushed for 2 kilometers in Banashakari area from the college to the main road, passed the post office, reached the BDA Complex and back to the college. Going downhill at one point threatened all the bikes plummeting into one another, but with 5 people to one engine the students controlled the entire operation beautifully. With the drum beating to various tunes, some youngsters started dancing tapori style - almost like a festival procession. And it was! A festival celebrating the earth, celebrating our home, the air, water and ground which we depend upon.

An operation which involved top environmental organisations - Sanctuary Asia, Earth Day Network and Greenpeace who were our supporters and stood like pillars throughout the rally. Our media partner Namma Bengaluru Foundation gave us the media action in Bangalore.

The day ended with Greenpeace creating a human chain of a bicycle and a pledge taken by the 200 students promising to save 100,000 km of carbon emissions till the next Earth Day April 22, 2012.

What a perfect Earth Day celebration in Bangalore, and a milestone for me as an enthusiastic person wishing to make a difference. I will be doing much more.

Media coverage and support:


Sanctuary Asia

The Hindu


Bangalore Mirror

The New Indian Express

- by Kavya Chandra

02 April 2012

And Revathi did not come

Summer has descended upon the subcontinent .
The cities, towns, plains, and the once salubrious hill stations are heating up.
The days are hot, the nights are still. There is no escape.
It is immutable.Everyone waits for  rain. The Malnad is ready to receive her.

Even the beautiful Coffea Arabica  bud is ready. It awaits Revathi ,the pre-monsoon shower.  Revathi, the giver of life, the nurturer.In the wilderness of the Malnad will Revathi keep her date ? But this year she is late again. Her timely arrival is important. For some its life .For some its business as usual. Her arrival announces that the South West Monsoon is on its way.Her drizzle enhances the coffee bloom .The coffee farmer waits in anticipation.  She brings the Malnad back to life.

This year the temperatures in the Malnad touched 36 degrees  against a normal temperature  of 33-34 degrees Celsius. Apart from this higher than normal temperature, there has been a dry spell of  nearly 5 months in the coffee growing areas that is affecting coffee production. But Revathi did not come.

The  dry spell  and the high temperatures are worrying the farmers, specially in the areas that lack irrigation facilities. Coffee production in India is about 300 years old and largely occurs on small, family-owned farms - majority being up to 2.5 acres. The occurrence of irregular and unseasonal rain,  extreme weather events - have started to take its toll on India's coffee.The hard ,dark brown coffee bean belies the fact that the coffee crop is acutely sensitive and like most crops is sensitive to rain. A long-term increase in the number of extreme and unseasonal rainfall events has lowered crop yields, threatening the livelihood of those dependant on this sector .Coffee has seen a decline in its productions in the last couple of years. In fact the magnitude of this decline is quite astounding .Yields have declined almost 10% since 2000.

In the year 2009  both Arabica and Robusta suffered losses due to unseasonal heavy rains.Likewise, heavy rains during the blossoming delayed the harvest and lowered crop quality in 2010. There have been periods of drought  In 2002, Karnataka experienced a severe drought for three consecutive years (2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04). The IPCC on Climate Change predicts that yields from rain-dependant agriculture could be down by 50% by 2020 . In the Coorg region, some areas have already seen rainfall drop by one-third – from 106 inches per year to 70 inches.

The problem with today’s economy is that we have become obsessed by  the idea of "GDP growth” - which seems to be the single most important measure for success. A green economy is the only sustaining economy - it put values on natural resources, it uses resources sparingly, makes use of its natural capital rather than wasting it and stands committed to environmental protection.Our current GDP models do not recognise the role of natural capital.There is a lot that needs to change. Unless the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems, of ecology and forests, not just among economists, but at the level of policy makers, administrators, businesses and the public is understood,the wait for Revathi will get longer.

by Viva Kermani

07 March 2012

The various E's in Sustainable Development

Thinking about sustainable development and connecting the dots, I came to realise how important the letter 'E' is when it comes to describing solutions and research in the development sector.

It starts with Education from a young age, schools and institutions are pillars in shaping young interests and hearts, terms such as environment education, conservation begin at this stage to leave an impression of the natural world. Nature walks, excursions bring alive the bee's and butterflies stories and remain in memory.  Movies like 'Jungle Book' and 'Finding Nemo' are crucial in teaching the next generation, using forests and animals help them connect and identify with the natural world. As they grow older, projects, photography, identifying key animal species continue, One of the most important introductions at this stage is teaching individuals about the many shortcomings in the country, visiting villages and slums, reaching out to the poor and less privileged in an effort to bridge this enormous gap.

Employment at a young adult stage is a big transition; more responsibilities newer interests and higher stress is involved. Calculating carbon footprint at this stage is an important step to sustainable living with most working professionals who opt for private vehicles instead of public transport. Delhi's metro success provided a big solution for reducing carbon emissions. This success has encouraged other cities to develop metro's, like Bangalore starting its metro. Energy efficiency can start at home and slowly spread in work places with of course all individuals being aware of energy use, expense. We begin learning to switch off - like Earth Hour once a year reminds us that conserving energy is an important factor to consider and keep us aware and alert on the stress we put on our resources. Earth Day is another yearly alert that we have one planet and one home to protect, educating those who haven't yet turned around, to be green  and economise better.

Empowering and Emancipation of women is a social issue taking up precedence in the world. Wangari Maathai showed the world what one person can do through her work and actions, how women can lead sustainable livelihoods in Africa and empowering rural women to take action in a male dominated society. She received accolades for her sustainable methods and paved the road for women leaders in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Equality and Equity is another step towards sustainable development. The Millennium Development Goals by the UN show that more than 1 billion people go hungry, more than 2 billion live on less than $1 a day. There is a dangerous difference between the rich & privileged and the rest of the world. Efforts are being made a large scale basis to overcome the 8 goals, growing populations and more people coming into the bracket of poverty only makes this challenge bigger. One of their most recent success stories is the availability of water in poor and developing countries.

If you string all the letters with 'E' you get: Education, Employment, Empowering, Energy Efficiency, Equality, Earth.

- By Kavya Chandra

17 February 2012

Natural Capital and putting a Value to it

Pavan Sukhdev, CEO of Deutsche Bank mentioned in a TED Talks presentation last year that "The invisible economic value of natural capital in the world is worth around $13 trillion".

What we need to understand is there is a certain balance in the planet that nature has a full force in. Just how every tree holds a minimum of 30% pure carbon, put a forest or sanctuary together you have lakhs of carbon stored in tree's, water bodies and soil. The process of cleansing the air and maintaining a fresh supply of oxygen has a responsibility and comes free ever since life begun. It is crucial that we learn to value and protect these resources which provide an invaluable service to our food, agriculture water and climate needs. Pavan Sukhdev puts a value to nature and joins the dots between business, profit, and conservation with a focus on sustainable development, keeping the future in mind and whats at stake.

He said, "Bee's pollinating fruit in the world is worth around $190 billion, but the bee doesn't give you an invoice". South America's amazon rain forests carry billions of water vapour which feed the country's  agriculture needs, the citizens pay zero for this.

The action plan that India needs to draw out is keeping 'green accounts' for every state; measuring water and forest availability and creating an educational forum of the value these resources provide.

Companies in India today understand that green and sustainable are cleaner and cheaper, but what they want most of all is a reassurance from the government to start investing in this sector, the red tape needs to be cut to allow foreign investors coming into the country. Its a win-win situation for companies investing in climate change and green norms. Indian governments have a plan for creating green accounting by 2015, this should be pushed as a compulsory policy so that MNC's in India lead by example for the rest.

The problem today is due to the the wide difference between urban and natural capital, and people having little idea on the value of the environment. For everyone to understand the importance of natural capital and their role they play in our sustainable future, putting a price tag on nature today is critical.

By Kavya Chandra

24 January 2012

Dangers of developing India

India's development, social issues, environmental problems are mounted one of top of each other, add climate variance to all spells a huge dilemma coming at us.

Recently in Durban we concluded the 17th Confederation of parties (COP) where over 190 countries assembled in Africa to reach decisions on the growing climate problem world over. This was one of the most important meetings since Kyoto will be expiring in 2012 and countries debated on whether a renewal treaty should be put in place or not. India's role took a tongue lashing from environmentalists and adamantly refused to co-operate on lowering carbon emissions. The country's per capita global emission is far less than the total carbon footprint, agreed, but what Jayanthi Natarajan our honourable environmental minister misses out is that we are a growing population of 1.2 billion. People's carbon footprint increases as more than 50,000 vehicles are added on the road every year, employment has shot up in cities increasing numbers, mining in South India is taking an ecological toll, Wiping out forests and disregard to wildlife in the name of development increases, hence there are many many reasons to growing India's carbon footprint.

Highlighting this issue, the root of most of India's problems stems from: Extreme poverty. Lack of education, health, security, benefits, unemployment and zero access - a trend of problems arise. One is of course high growth of population in India. Contraception and family planning is virtually unknown in most parts of the country with no education in this matter. The other issue is the demand for the male children, which results in having more children the better likelihood of producing a male, many parts of India don't want girl children. The problem largely falls on lack of education and knowledge, inadequate health access which leads to bigger families. With development centered on urban centric locations we miss addressing the root of the problem which lies in most underdeveloped and neglected areas of India.

Our agriculture, food and water security is in deep trouble today. The population still largely sits in villages and small towns and little or nothing is done on upliftment of those livelihoods which are directly responsible for the food on our table. Bureaucracy, corruption and exploitation leaves a trail of tragic endings to agriculture farmers who are completely helpless in the face of an insensitive system. The climate crisis is affecting their livelihoods at a greater level prompting many farmers to turn to alternate sources if possible.

But where there are problems, who says solutions are not possible? It's not that we can't, we don't. India has made tremendous progress in the last 10 years, catapulting the country in the paths technology, science, energy and gaining respect world over. A 360 degree view needs to implemented right away in this way. Green employment today is becoming a growing sector, the terms solar, wind are a trend witnessed everywhere. Providing alternate energy is not only 'green'  environmentally healthy but generates employment opportunities in rural and urban sectors. Sustainable livelihoods with indigenous tribes/ forest people of India is important ground level opportunity. The country still has one of the largest natural capital, the need to protect these areas is vital for economic growth. Education is 'the' most important, it provides the backbone to any growing economy. Health, food and water security are of course natural demands.

As business takes importance and ecological takes a backseat many forget that its because of ecology we thrive today. If we take her for granted business and economy will fall, it is inevitable.

By Kavya Chandra

13 January 2012

An Extraordinary Journey

By Kavya Chandra

Pushpanath aka ‘Push’ as he is fondly known stands out from the crowd with his bushy white-black hair, calm expression and radiating energy. A charismatic man, Push is someone who is driven by passion, love for the outdoors, storytelling and believes actions speak for themselves.

An amazing and difficult journey undertaken in November 2011 by Push who walked 550 kilometers from Chikmagalur (north belt of Karnataka) to Mysore for 16 days in his fight for climate justice. His message was simple, “India is feeling the pain of climate change, when a child is ill his mother applies a wet cloth to his forehead, similarly India is getting hot but the world leaders at Durban are too busy fighting over the colour of the cloth”. Words simple, yet impactful.

This is the second walk by Push who walked from Oxford to Copenhagen in 2009 as a run-up to the Copenhagen summit carrying the same message to world leaders in Copenhagen. He has travelled far and wide over the past 16 years as a global campaigner for climate action, seen the sufferings of the poor in African countries, experienced poverty faced by children in South Asia and witnessed women in developing countries bear the full brunt of climate conflict.

A follower of Gandhi and a radical at heart, Push says that the Dandi March inspired him to walk, ‘‘It is the simplest thing anyone can do, if you feel strongly about something walking is the best way to express yourself’’. 

Similarly this year, Push takes a message to our world leaders who recently wounded up the Durban meeting, “Stop pushing around papers on the desk and playing with people’s lives, its time to stop acting politically and start actual ground work, you have the power to set an example, act, and be remembered in history for facing one of the biggest challenges of man”.

During the walk Push received unstinting and overwhelming support from The Karnataka Growers’ Federation (KGF); a mother body of top coffee growers and planters in the state and world. Push’s journey began in Chikmagalur from Baba Budangir, across many small towns passing the heart of Coorg (commonly known as coffee country) and finally Mysore. Every town welcomed him like a hero, garlands and flowers were thrown, firecrackers burnt with lots of band baja and dance. It felt like a wedding only absentees the bride and groom. The locals graciously put him up every night at each passing town, prepared delicious Coorg cuisine and opened their hearts and homes to Push supporting him till the very end. Children listened to him, danced with him, and hugged him, shouting ‘Chalo Durban’. One unforgetful memory was when a small child of 7 removed him shoes and walked 8 km with Push. Coffee growers, local activists, self help groups from all over the state came to meet Push, tell him their stories and problems with changing climate, some of them being with him till the very end.

Push personally reached out to 30,000 people in the course of 16 days and lakhs more through media. He walked 2, 25, 00,000 steps totally and was widely covered by the media in Karnataka especially in local towns of Chikmagalur and Coorg, Mysore and Bangalore.

‘‘These kinds of stories are the inspiration for us all... to do what we do!!! For today,and the generations to come!”
- Marc Matheiu, Hindustan Unilever

“One day your name will be the reason of the change in the world, your name might appear even in HISTORY textbooks as “the soul cause of our change”
- Dhruvi, High school student

"You’ve not only accomplished an astonishing personal physical achievement, but raised awareness on climate change and fired the imagination of all those you have come into contact with. With your example they will surely think that anything is possible!"
- Malini Mehra, CEO,Centre for Social Markets (CSM)

Visit Pushpanath's blog on http://gopushgo.com/

Whose Money Is It Anyways?

By Viva Kermani

I am not an economist. Neither do I subscribe to The Financial Times nor to The Economist. Nor do I care to seriously read  any of the salmon colored newspapers.

 Despite all of this, I am amazed at how, in the very recent past, there has been a flood of articles, op-eds, stories, blog posts, tweets and re-tweets on the rise in income inequality.  Outrage seems to be on how we have allowed capitalism to grow into the form that it is today - which is killing equality, destroying the world’s ecology  and causing severe environmental degradation .The manner in which there is an overzealousness in  natural resource exploitation , one would imagine that  our natural capital is here for us to last till perpetuity.
The rise of disparity of incomes is not limited to countries such as India, where there has been a history of  stark inequality, but the rise of income inequality is growing notoriously in developed countries such as the US and UK. A recent study done in the US showed that the top 1% households' income grew by 275% - this is just one revealing statistics – there is a lot  more data out there to show that more wealth is shifting to fewer  people, with few bankers having a disproportionate control  over the economy.  As a recent New York Times article puts it – it has been the era of the rise of the super rich. If not the ultra-rich.

Forbes annually tallies the fortunes of the world’s billionaires. The world’s 1,210 current billionaires, Forbes reported in March 2011, hold a combined wealth that equals over half the total wealth of the 3.01 billion adults around the world.  Something is seriously going wrong. Despite India s economy growing anywhere between 7% and 8 % in the last few years, income inequality has doubled in 20 years. Surely, GDP growth cannot be the only measure of development and progress or for that matter prosperity.

Nevertheless, why is all this happening? What are we missing that is driving this rapaciousness? Is it because of our inability to perceive the difference between public benefits and private profits?

I have come to see this polarisation more acutely and closely over the last 12 months in my work with the Karnataka Growers Federation.   I have been working extensively with the small to medium-sized coffee farmer in the southern state of Karnataka. Coffee is now big business in India.  According to India’s Coffee Board, domestic consumption has been witnessing a steady growth of five to six per cent in the last five years. And we can see this – almost all of urban India today is dotted with coffee bars. Coffee is the preferred choice for the upwardly mobile and uber cool. With the ubiquitous CafĂ© Coffee Day, Baristas, Costa Coffee, and the much awaited entry of the more expensive Starbucks into India, the latte and cappuccino are here to stay.

The world has been gulping down so much coffee that  it is now the second most globally traded commodity after oil.  But coffee is one of the few internationally traded commodities that is still mainly produced not on large estates or plantations but on small holdings. The economies of the some of the poorest countries are highly dependent on trade in coffee –in some African countries like Ethiopia and Burundi -but the producer today hardly makes a living from his or her coffee bean, given their small holdings – the majority being anywhere between 2.5 acres  to10 acres.

 The story is no different in India. Contrary to popular perception, 98.5% of coffee growers in India are small farmers. Today India produces 4.5% of the world’s coffee. This is good news – to some.

The bad news is that coffee is produced by 90 countries globally but consumed by just 40 countries. The global coffee trade today is close to USD 96 billion. Of this USD 96 billion trade, a meagre USD 8 billion comes back to coffee-producing countries. There is not a chance in hell that the farmer, who produces coffee on say a  10 acre holding, has any control on the market prices or access to any share of this mega profit. The producer s share of this profit is unusually low while the usual suspects in between and at the end, laugh all the way to bank. The world’s big four coffee roasters  also have big coffee brands – and therefore enjoy huge margins - while the producer benefits the least. Squeezing the small farmer for the lowest possible price – in the long run is a bad business idea – it will drive the coffee farmer out of business.

Coupled with no control over prices, there is another challenge facing the farmer today – that of unseasonal rain and unpredictable weather patterns. Whilst climate change is just one of numerous factors that may affect global coffee production, the International Coffee Organization considers it will likely be one of the most important ones with smallholders (who produce the majority of the world's coffee) the most vulnerable group.  In Karnataka, the state that produces about 70% of India’s coffee, there were 3 years of continuous drought during the coffee season from 2002 to 2005 followed by heavy rainfall in 2006 and 2007. This lead to severe infestation of pest and disease, like stem borer and leaf rust, which resulted in huge crop loss.  For the first time we heard of suicides among coffee farmers.

When it comes to coffee, India is unique. It is the only country on the world map that grows  all its coffee in the shade. Indian coffee is  grown in forest like conditions –verdant and rich in biodiversity. India also grows both the varieties of coffee – Arabica (Coffea Arabica) and Robusta(Coffea robusta). Arabica is high-end coffee – it is rich and yet delicate in flavour and therefore  commands a higher price.  Robusta is the low-end variety – it  is hardier but commands a lower price. One would think that Indian farmers would want to grow Arabica and get a higher price for their coffee bean. But sadly the trend is the reverse. Arabica-growing farmers instead are opting out of this highly-flavoured cherry to grow the Robusta variety (which requires less care), partly because the Arabica plant cannot stand up to climate variability and unpredictable weather patterns.  And this is the other thing – we are now drinking more and more coffee but of less and less quality.  

So whether Arabica survives or not, or whether farmers only grow Robusta because they have to, I know that if Baba Budan were around today, he would have probably been a very rich man.