Sunday, 1 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.


  1. Dear Viva

    Its the Painful story and state of Coffee ,but you seem to have written it with such grace .....thankyou for sharing....shall pray from Revathi to descend ,onto all of us ,coffee growers,appropriately !!!

    Keep writing

    Ms Cheppudira Ponappa

    1. Thanks Miss ! By the way Revathi came ! And in what force - but scattered and not equally - like she usually does.Whats the news from Coorg ?

  2. My deep breath ha --, Dear Viva, it is amazing how you are able to grasp so many things on coffee in a very short span of time.Congratulation to you,I guess it is due to your dedication to learn, hard work and time management.Many traditional growers should learn lots from you.
    Revathi in fact, arrived with a bang but in some pockets, we are expecting it to continue with wide spread showers.When is your next visit to our place to enlighten us.


    1. Dear Mr Basanna,Thank you for your kind words Sir - I feel humbled - it is from you and your colleagues at KGF that I know what I know - you have been a great inspiration and teacher - there is so much more for me to learn, I hope that you will continue to teach and lead the way . The task is daunting but I know with your support, knowledge and committment, we will succeed in building resilience and sustainability in coffee.

  3. Dear Viva,
    Extremely well written which shows why the Coffee Planters are so depedent on timely blossom showers . Revathi has finally showered late again.

    Joe Britto

  4. Yet again, you score the bulls-eye Viva- a superb capture of the unpredictability and destruction caused by the climatic variance on the Coffee Farmer of the Western ghats.Revathi did arrive, at last, as per the star prediction- but played hide and seek with fury and flamboyance.There is something to be said about the resilence of these farmers.They are battered and bruised year after year but they come back fighting with hope and optimism-they nurture and nourish the Ghats through the practice of shade coffee but they cannot go on like this for ever.The economics of Coffee growing is set against the grower and now the climate is also raining havoc-over the last 10 years.The friend, saviour and the protector of the lungs of the south India also needs support.They cannot go-on like this but for what they have done to save the ecology, I kneel down and thank them.

    Keep writing these reflections Viva-with vividness, vitality and vogour that you show without loosing your objectivity.

    1. Thanks Push. Your comments are always important to me- given your experience - from climate change to fair trade.
      You know the land so well and your walk from Bababudangiri to the plains made you even closer to the Malnad and its people.You have in many ways been my coffee guru ! Viva

  5. Dear Viva,

    your blog, once again, promises the potential to rid its reader from slumber. The reality of changing weather pattern is staring coffee growers in the face. They have not been credited duly for presrving tranquality of the local ecosystem.
    Having visited plantations myself, I can speak about the disconnect that exists between the grower on the plantation and the consumer in cities. The oblivious consumer does not realise that climate change is as close as his cup of coffee.
    But on a positive note, the awareness campgins that you started, and were actively a part of, have gone a long way in spreading the word around.

    Anshu Ogra

  6. Very well written! As I always keep telling you, you should write for a publication.

    1. My dear dear Hemant - you are always so encouraging - thank you .About writing for a publication - you know me better ! viva