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Bird Friendly® Coffee(Page 2/2)

October 2010

Certification criteria for Bird Friendly® Coffee

To be certified as Bird Friendly® farm, there are roughly two core criteria that must be met. One is that the coffee is grown organically. This is friendly not only to birds but also to people. The other is that the coffee is shade grown in a natural forest setting.

It has set original criteria for shade growing methods: the canopy (of the shade trees) must display at least 40% foliage cover when looking skyward from within the agroforest, and trees must be comprised of 11 or more species. There are also criteria for the height of shade trees, namely that 60% should be "middle" trees (12m and taller), 20% should be "tall" trees (15m and taller) and 20% "small" trees. In short, the "architecture" of the farm's shade cover should resemble a natural forest. The certification criteria for Bird Friendly® are simple but strict, and for that reason are known as the "gold standard"—the best available benchmark— for coffee certification in the United States.

Migratory birds have actually been observed resting on Bird Friendly® certified farms. Sumitomo Corporation is committed to the expansion of the Bird Friendly® program, under an exclusive contract with the Smithsonian Institution, the mother body of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

The Bird Friendly® Coffee program is an environmental protection scheme in which all coffee drinkers can take part. Sumitomo Corporation will continue to care for and enhance the global environment, with a cup of good coffee as a starting point.

  • Bird Friendly® Coffee Approval seal

  • Bird Friendly® Coffee

  • Selling the first coffee products packaged in a consumer-friendly paper beverage container (“cart can”)

Interview:As partners that work toward constant improvement / Dr. Robert A. Rice

Our relationship started in 2004, when Sumitomo Corporation contacted us at a U.S.-held exhibition. We had been implementing the Bird Friendly® Coffee program only in the United States and Canada, but were then given the idea of disseminating the program overseas in Japan. Of course, Japan was an attractive market, but the largest reason we decided to cooperate with Sumitomo Corporation was due to their great understanding for our research and professional expertise in trading and marketing. They have taught us much about Japan, and now we have become indispensable partners improving each other.

Migratory birds were found to make use of shade grown coffee farms as viable habitat around 1990 when researchers of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center were studying their habits in Mexico. They identified a "forest" where many birds were resting, and found it was not a natural forest. It was a farm where coffee beans were grown under the trees.

However, the number of shade-grown farms has decreased in recent decades, as people have come to believe that farming without using trees for shade is more efficient and therefore induces greater profit.

My current goal is to encourage more and more farms to participate in the Bird Friendly® certification program and ensure a more stable income for such farmers, so that habitats for migratory birds are protected and biological diversity is maintained throughout the region. I hope that people in Japan, too, will start contributing to global environment preservation with a cup of coffee. Imagine that the birds in your garden have spent time on faraway coffee farms. This could be a reality of the Bird Friendly® certification program soon to be launched at coffee farms in Asia.

Dr. Robert A. Rice,
A Researcher of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
A geographer. Completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, CA. His research centers around agroecology and land use policy issues. Have conducted field work on coffee farms in eight countries in Central America and Mexico, he helped found the Bird Friendly® Coffee program in 1999, which certifies coffee farms that provide quality habitat for migratory birds

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