Common Power

By Adila Isfandiari, Climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Indonesia

The climate crisis has affected many aspects of our lives – even an often overlooked but most cherished way to start our day: our cup of coffee! Indonesia is one of the largest coffee producers in the world but the climate crisis has led to an increase of rainfall and floods in the country, affecting coffee production and impacting the livelihood of small-scale producers who are running 90% of coffee plantations. To overcome these challenges, using renewable energy like solar energy to power their coffee driers, small plantations like Lady Farmer Coffee are able to maintain the quality and taste of Indonesian coffee – and farmers are motivated and empowered to join this line of business! In this way, the farmers can adapt to the challenges of the climate crisis as well as reduce emissions from their electricity consumption.

“Lady Farmer is here because we want to empower women around this area to become farmers,” says Farida Dwi, also known as Wiwi, the founder of Lady Farmer Coffee. “Solar energy is definitely a change for us, too. Renewable energy is still rarely heard of here. The new solar panel and dryer method we are now using  can help us demonstrate that women can compete in this industry.” 

Wiwi and two other women joined forces in 2016 and created Lady Farmer Coffee plantation in Karangkobar, in Indonesia’s Central Java region, following Wiwi’s vision to make excellent coffee that is capable of competing with other coffee brands. The Lady Farmer Coffee Plantation now boasts 273 coffee trees of the Sigarar Utang coffee variety, all run by women responsible for end-to-end coffee production, from plantation to post harvesting, roasting the beans and packaging them to be sold.

Coffee trees and coffee production are sensitive to environmental changes, with data showing that climate change has led to an increasing trend of rainfall in Java by 1,472mm per year. While coffee trees can act as a buffer to prevent landslides in a region that suffers heavy rainfall, rain can nonetheless have adverse effects on the trees and their beans. “Actually, coffee trees need water from the air because it contains base compounds that are good for their growth. But if it is too much, the rainfall will ruin the tree itself,” says Wiwi. “The rainfall will affect the flowers, the sweetness in the flowers and later in the beans, the sweetness will disappear.” Moreover, the rain can affect the bean’s drying process and, in turn, its quality. Wiwi stresses the importance of having solar panels that generate electricity for the bean drying process, as lack of sunshine and heat can lead to a change in the bean’s flavour or cause it to self-ferment and become moldy. According to research conducted by Soriano and Aguirre, with the installation of a solar dryer that operates with clean and renewable energy, bean drying time is reduced by 40% and cost can be reduced by as much as 35%. This allows Lady Farmer coffee roasters to ensure uniformity in the drying of the coffee beans and a consistency in bean quality and thus, profit – despite the weather uncertainty in the area. 

On the other hand, the increasing cost of electricity has severely affected Lady Farmer Coffee, as governmental electricity subsidies are limited for civilian entities, and Lady Farmer Coffee as a company is not entitled to receive them. Renewable energy, like solar, is a solution for different parts of the coffee making process. “In coffee shops, if you need electricity  for heavy machines, now you can choose a better option with renewable energy. In my opinion, it will help reduce the production cost significantly”. 

Renewable energy has proved to be a means of both economic and female empowerment in Central Java, assisting Lady Farmer Coffee to keep its costs low while maintaining consistent quality in its product. Moreover, solar energy serves as both adaptation and mitigation measures to face the climate crisis situation. “This is the first and we are willing to learn together with others,” says Wiwi. “We are really thankful for this.” 

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