Posted in Kafevend Blog
Following the end of the Vietnam war, the Communist government decided to encourage the growing of coffee as a cash crop to reestablish their economy. Initially, they encouraged large collective farms, where resources, land and money would be pooled together for all the people working on them. Low production led to the Doi Moi reforms in 1986 which permitted private enterprise. Since then, coffee production has boomed, resulting in Vietnam being one of the top coffee producing countries in the world.
Their success in the coffee industry seems set to come crashing down however, should current growing trends continue. A number of factors could lead to vast swathes of growing regions being devastated: A combination of wide scale deforestation- some 40,000 square miles- and a monoculture where the only plant grown is coffee means that the soil is essentially going to be sucked dry and unable to support further growth. Climate change and the extremes of weather it brings could potentially ruin the crops. Many coffee trees are reaching the end of their life cycle, and there is no plan in place yet to replace them. A lack of understanding about the best way to grow the coffee has led to the overuse of water sources and fertilizer. It's not looking good!
There are efforts in place to try to avoid this disaster though. Farmers are being encouraged to switch to growing higher quality coffee, instead of the low quality robusta which has formed the basis of the industry in Vietnam. With a higher quality coffee bringing in more money, it could mean that farmers need to work less ground in order to earn enough to support themselves. Farmers are also being advised on more efficient methods that produce less waste. Perhaps, in time, a return to shade grown coffee practices may help to restore Vietnam's ecological stability, while boosting its economic returns too.