Wednesday, 3 October 2012

After Revathi, Rohini did not come

After Revathi, the monsoon laden Rohini did not come as she usually does.
Her arrival in June after the Indian summer is life line for all those living in the Malnad and for 150,000 coffee farmers.  The warm Indian summer dries up tanks and springs, but when Rohini arrives, life is back. Springs are activated, tanks are recharged and rivers start to flow.

But this year, Rohini arrived late.Like Rohini, the other rains also arrived late  - Bharini, Kritika, Pushya . They were all late.. Not only were they late, they were not  accompanied by the usual strong winds  -the rains did not get distributed evenly and some  parts of the Malnad received very heavy rains and their were unseasonal downpours. The rains and winds are all changing  in their  patterns. In fact, the beauty of the monsoon pattern  in the shade growing coffee regions is in  its distribution, according to Dr Anand Pereira, an eco friendly coffee planter in Sakleshpur.

According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data, monsoon rains from June to August 8, 2012 have been deficient in North Interior Karnataka by 33 % , South Interior Karnataka by 34%  and in Malnad it has been upto 44% . For a crop that is so dependant on the monsoon and for the 100,000  coffee farmers in Karnataka, mostly small holders , this spells disaster. What is often not known is that most of the coffee farmers are small farmers. According to India's Coffee Board 98.8% of the farmers are small holders - this is the story of coffee cultivation - not just in India but globally, from Africa to the Americas - coffee is produced by  small farmers - some who own hardly 20 to 30 coffee plants. One drought, or one season of incessant rain can wipe them out. And unlike tea, the countries that produce coffee, are countries often too poor to drink it - with the exception of Brazil that consumes 40% of what is produces. The flow of coffee is from developing countries to developed countires - where coffee is produced at the lowest possible  price .The top producers are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia ,Mexico and the top consumers are  United States, Germany, Japan, France.India is about 5th/6th in coffee production .

So while our farmers who wait and pray for rain, who invoke the rain Gods so that their crops survive  and they get a good harvest, so they can send their kids to school, urban India  awaits the arrival of  its first Starbucks store.


  1. Hey viva,

    It is yet another throught provoking effort from your end.
    Needless to say, with changing weather patterns coffee growers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to weather fluctuations. Further pressure is added by market forces like upcoming starbucks outlets which you have brifly written about.
    I think it is high time that we try to see the picture in a holsitic manner and not devide them into climate related problems and market related problems. After all growers vulnerability towards weather conditions arises out of the complex relation shared between various such factors.


    1. Thanks Anshu
      Your dissertation "Weather experiences, weather forecasting and coffee growers in contemporary South India" inspired this post !
      Frankly, the situation is grim for the farmers in the Malnad - we are paying a huge ecological price in the name of "development"

  2. Coffee business in India as some observers say will reach an economy of one billion soon.Who is gaining from it all.What is the share of the small growers in it.I bet the growers get less than 10 %.

    But the Coffee land is threatened by climate variance in an unprecedented way.The Western ghats that is home to the Coffee is facing a dire situation in terms of present and continuous threat and danger to its very Bio-diversity preservation.If the growers are not enlisted soon to combat the climate impact through adaptation and mitigation intervention than they will in turn due to deperation turn against the very ecology of Coffee land.Time is running out not just for the Coffee growers but to the livelihood and opportunity for all of us living below the glorious older than Himalayan mountain range-time we took to the COP-11-this story of despair that has great promise if we act together

  3. Hi Push,
    You are the greatest story teller and the coffee farmers in Karnataka are fortunate that you are telling their story - it will be told once again at COP-CBD.
    The time is short and the challenge is huge but this is really not the time for inaction. Your support to the farmer is so solid -wish there were more like you.