Why we opted for coffee: an arising debate of coffee vs rice

As a science-driven think and do-tank team, multidisciplinary and action-based research is what we put forward. One of the most interesting parts of our adaptation-mitigation synergising project is the desktop analysis for the vulnerability assessment, from which we can deliver how our case study is impacted by climate change, its implication to the livelihood, and how the society and the system have the capacity to respond to it. At the first stage, we are showing you how annual rainfall in Bali is projected to decrease by between 2040 and 2069. We can see that the lowlands and both southern and northern coasts are projected to become drier, as depicted below.


Annual precipitation in Bali at the baseline level on the left and projection (2040-2069) on the right


This projection might look devastating but also trigger your sceptical view. Annual rainfall of 1300 mm is supposed to be enough to feed those glorious UNESCO-heritage rice fields in Bali, why would we bother supporting coffee farmers? Coffee is supposed to be needy when it comes to water, isn’t it?

Many people would guess that the main issue of climate change in Indonesia is a declining amount of rainfall, which is true at some point. However, even though climate change impact is largely inclusive, the impact is specific from one place to another. Even a number studies figured out that some areas in Indonesia are projected to receive more rainfall1,2. But, we observed a non-obvious issue within the agricultural sector: the rainfall distribution. The prolonged dry season is real. Delayed monsoon onset followed by El Nino or other factors will create a dramatic impact on our agriculture.

How is it related to rice paddy and coffee plantation in Bali?

The average cycle of rice paddy cultivation in Bali is around 110 days, which can take up to 2-3 times of harvesting cycle: three times at the wetter areas while two times at the drier regions (based on field observation). For optimum productivity, we need between 575mm-1800mm for one single cultivating period (4 consecutive months)3. Most of our rice paddy fields are concentrated at the lower lands, which receive relatively lower rainfall. On the other hand, for coffee, we need 1500-2000mm4 per year and 2-3 dry months for optimum yields, even 4-5 months based on our case study in NTT. That says, once dry season becomes erratic or longer than usual, it likely poses a high risk to one whole cycle of the rice paddy or annual coffee yield quality


Of course, the physical consideration does not only lie solely on the climate factor but also elevation, terrain, soil quality, etc. That is why, by comparing our rice suitability study that we already conducted for INSISTs project with an established coffee suitability5, we found it interesting that the suitable regions for coffee are not suitable for rice paddy, and the other way around. This leaves us narrower regions for coffee plantation as the northern part of Bali, which mostly comprises of higher elevation areas. It then depends on which point of view you are standing at in order to create an adaptation plan: maintaining rice as one of the national staples or enhancing the productivity of our estate crops. Both work for a good cause of food security. This means, at the moment, we cannot arise the coffee vs rice notion, as they both require completely different things.


Suitability of rice paddy at the baseline level on the left and projection (2040-2069) on the right (dark green indicates highly suitable; lighter green indicates moderately suitable; yellow indicates marginally suitable; orange-red indicates not suitable).


Suitability of coffee at the current level (left) and projection (2050; right)


Furthermore, we opted for coffee for its economic, environmental, and social considerations, including the willingness of farmers to cooperate and to adopt the solutions that we offer. From the economic factor, coffee market is also promising as the global coffee trading is very popular now. We can take this opportunity to attract people who concern about sustainable lifestyle through coffee consumption or even beyond that by improving the value-added of the coffee to boost its higher sales price. Enabling the farmers to enhance their own resilience by installing biogas digesters is an advantage from the social and environmental point of view as they will be able to roast their own coffee and use the bioslurry for their coffee farm to improve the value added. Moreover, cultivating coffee is relatively less of a hassle and easier to maintain.


For sure we aim to do more than coffee. As we are very passionate about synergysing bioenergy with climate smart agriculture, we target other estate crops as they have higher value-added compared to the national staples such as rice and maize. We are putting an effort on maximising the land usage of estate crops for the sake of the farmers’ resilience.


All of these sounds great, but some farmers are still not reached, and this coffee-biogas issue as our symbolic story needs further exploration and expansion of a higher impact of adaptation-mitigation synergy. Our farmers deserve more resilient livelihood, so why not use this potentiality?



1Naylor, R. L., Battisti, D. S., Vimont, D. J., Falcon, E. P., & Burke, M. B. (2007). Assessing risks of climate variability and climate change for Indonesian rice agriculture. PNAS, 104(19), 7752–7757.


2MetOffice, University of Nottingham, Walker Institute, Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, University of Leeds, & Tyndall Centre. (2013). Climate: Observations, projections and impacts: Indonesia (Country Reports). Nottingham. Retrieved from http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/2040/13/Indonesia.pdf


3Takama, T., Setyani, P., & Aldrian, E. (2014). Climate Change Vulnerability to Rice Paddy Production in Bali, Indonesia. In W. Leal Filho (Ed.), Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation (pp. 1–23). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-40455-9_84-1


4Kementrian Pertanian Direktorat Jenderal Perkebunan. (2014). Pedoman Teknis Budidaya Kopi yang Baik (Good Agriculture Practices/GAP on on Coffee). Menteri Pertanian Republik Indonesia.


5Schroth, G., Läderach, P., Blackburn Cuero, D. S., Neilson, J., & Bunn, C. (2015). Winner or loser of climate change? A modeling study of current and future climatic suitability of Arabica coffee in Indonesia. Regional Environmental Change, 15(7), 1473–1482. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-014-0713-x

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