Strategies and economics of farming systems with coffee in the Atlantic Rainforest Biome

H. Nonato de Souza, J. de Graaff, M.M. Pulleman

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41 Citations (Scopus)


In the Zona da Mata of Minas Gerais State, Brazil, family farmers are adjusting to agroecological principles to reconcile sustainable agriculture, livelihood improvements and biodiversity conservation. Starting in 1993, experimentation with coffee agroforestry was gradually initiated on an increasing number of farms (37 in total), resulting in the simultaneous management of sun coffee (SC) and agroforestry coffee (AF) plots. We aimed (1) to identify factors that determine the farmers’ selection of trees used in AF; (2) to describe the agroecological farms in transition; and (3) to perform an economic comparison between AF and SC. These objectives were addressed by combining data from botanical surveys in 1993/1994 and 2007, by interviews with farmers and by detailed data on the production value and costs of labour and material inputs. The results showed considerable diversity in farming strategies and management among the farmers. Early adopters of AF had diversified towards production of different marketable products. The use of native trees in AF for this purpose, and for restoration of soil fertility (e.g., leguminous trees), had increased since the start of the experiments, while exotic tree species were eliminated. Over a period of 12 years AF was more profitable than SC due to the production of a diversity of agricultural goods, despite somewhat higher establishment costs. Other ecosystem services delivered by AF, such as biodiversity and cultural services are currently not valorized. Payment schemes for environmental services could further improve the economic benefits of AF for family farmers and alleviate establishment and learning costs
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
JournalAgroforestry Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • biodiversity conservation
  • agroforestry systems
  • ecosystem services
  • agricultural landscapes
  • environmental services
  • agroecosystems


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