Global Warming Threatens Coffee Collapse in Uganda

Alexis Okeowo in Nsangi, Uganda
for National Geographic News
July 24, 2007

Things are getting hot for coffee farmers in Uganda—a little too hot.

Growers say global warming is already cutting into coffee harvests, the country's biggest export.

And a new report warns that even a slight increase in temperature could wipe out Uganda's entire coffee crop, which brings in more than half of the East African country's revenue.

"Climate change has affected coffee production already," said Philip Gitao, executive director of the East African Fine Coffees Association.

The crop has had less time to mature because rain is falling at the wrong times, affecting coffee quality, Gitao said. And there have been more droughts in the past two to three years than ever before.

"If the coffee beans face a lot of sunshine and less rain, the beans will be smaller and in lower yields," Ronald Buule, a central Ugandan coffee farmer, said as he stood at a coffee plot bordered by lush plants, muddy hills, and an orange dirt road.

"We are worried about the temperature, but we have limited resources," he added, as he examined his crops under a dense thicket of banana leaves.

Potential Disaster

Things might not get better anytime soon.

A rise in average temperatures of just 3.6°F (2°C) would make most of Uganda unsuitable for coffee, according to the Ugandan report on climate change released this spring.

That's a figure at the low end of global estimates.

The United Nations panel on climate change, for instance, predicted in January that world temperatures will rise by between 2.5 and 10°F (1.4 and 5.8°C) on average by the end of the century, primarily as a result of human activities such as burning fossil fuels.

Continued on Next Page >>


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