Our most recent trip to Peru to visit farmers growing coffee in the shade of the rain forest led us to the doorstep of Miguel Ojeda Rodriguez and his wife Clementina Melendres Neyra. Miguel and Clementina live high in the Andes Mountains near San Ignacio—an area known to have some of the best coffee in Peru.
Their shade-grown coffee has been a sustainable force for their family, allowing them to support their six children. All of the children are now grown, and two of the sons have remained on the farm to help their parents.
As we toured their farm, Miguel and Clementina talked extensively about the important role trees play in their coffee production. They showed us a very diverse collection of trees planted among their coffee—each with a very specific purpose. One type of tree on their farm is the romerillo tree, an evergreen that only grows in certain parts of Central America and takes up to 500 years to reach full maturity. It is leguminous and very beneficial for coffee because it adds nitrogen back into to the soil and doesn’t compete with the coffee for nutrients. They have also planted guava trees (fruit trees) and erythrina trees, which complement the coffee nicely.
And the family has plans for more tree planting in the future. They showed us areas of the farm where they want to add rows of smaller trees to act as barriers within the coffee farm and prevent the soil from washing down the mountain. All the work they are putting in now will lead to a more prosperous future—and a healthier rain forest.