Coffee leaf rust - spreading to highland areas
Coffee leaf rust, caused by a fungus, is a damaging disease in coffee farms around the world which can reduce harvests by 40 per cent or more. Until recently, the disease was not commonly found in highland areas, as it favours a warmer climate. However, with rising temperatures as a result of global warming, coffee growers in highland areas of countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, are increasingly finding their crop attacked by the disease, with a significant impact on both the quantity and quality of their yields. In response, the research organisation CABI is working with national coffee institutions to identify varieties of coffee that are resistant to the disease, and train farmers in other methods of protecting their crops.
We often hear about the impacts of climate change: changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and higher temperatures are just some of the most important ones. But changes like these also have many other effects. Rising temperatures can lead to certain diseases, such as malaria, spreading to new areas where previously they were not found. And for farmers, their crops and livestock may also face new challenges from pests and diseases.
In Africa, there are signs that coffee growing is becoming more difficult, and less profitable, because of these kinds of challenges. So what problems are coffee farmers facing, and what’s being done to help them continue production? To find out, Geoffrey Onditi visited the Nairobi office of a plant research organisation, CABI, to meet coffee expert Noah Phiri. Looking at some pictures of diseased coffee plants, Geoffrey noticed that some of the leaves were orange. He asked Noah to explain the reason.
Noah Phiri of CABI speaking to Geoffrey Onditi. The project is funded by the Common Fund for Commodities and supervised by the International Coffee Organisation. And that interview was supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.
Making the most of it:
If your listeners include coffee growers, try to give them more information about the strategies to protect their plants against coffee leaf rust. A local extension officer may offer useful advice, or link you to a national organisation that supports coffee growers.
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