Katie Von Der Lieth

Scaling up Coffee Agroforesty Production in Apui

Katie von der Lieth is a master’s student in International Agricultural Development at UC Davis and a RIFA Amazon Biodiversity Fellow in Brazil. Last summer, she worked at IDESAM, the Institute for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Amazon, on a project aimed at scaling up coffee agroforestry production in Apuí, a large town in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Katie’s specific objectives were to prepare a cost-benefit analysis of coffee agroforestry systems and a business plan for attracting invest in such systems.

In her first month in Brazil, Katie spent most of her time in Manaus, the capital city of Amazonas, reviewing and analyzing the mountains of data already collected by IDESAM’s coffee agroforestry project. With data ranging from the farm to policy level, she identified areas where the proposed benefits of coffee agroforestry weren’t being met, and then created a survey instrument to address and question these gaps. It was a challenge to develop a survey that built on such much previous data and it was even more challenging to identify and reach out to farmers outside the project.

Katie then traveled to Apuí to begin field interviews with the assistance of the IDESAM regional office staff. Due to the lack of telephone service and significant travel times between farms, conducting interviews was a difficult – but predicted – challenge. Katie tied to maximize her time by scheduling interviews with small groups of farmers while in the field, instead of individual interviews on different farms. She was able to complete twenty interviews with farmers and two interviews with major actors in the coffee/agricultural supply chain. Katie continues to work on investment memorandum and recommendations for the IDESAM coffee business plan. now working Katie continues to work on a business plan and an investment memorandum to attract capital for this niche coffee value chain.

When she wasn’t working, Katie enjoyed sampling the local cuisine, exploring Manuas’s live music scene and working with the amazing farmers in the Amazon. The best thing she ate in Brazil was jackfruit and a grilled freshwater fish called Tambaqui de banda. Tamabaqui was often accompanied with lime, rice, beans and farofa (roasted manioc flour). In Manaus, a city of two million, there was free music downtown every Wednesday, concerts on the weekend and even bands in many of the large stores and restaurants. Katie’s favorite time outside Manaus, in Apuí, was the Amazon rainforest, always lush and alive right beyond the farms and the deforested areas. And perhaps one of Katie’s most memorable experiences was visiting a farmer whose property abutted a national park who was adamant that she “tell America” that not all farmers living in the Amazon want to destroy it, and that some farmers like himself preserve more than they are legally obligated because they value the rainforest so much.

Written by Kate Wilkins.