From the editor: Hi again. Nuruliawati talks about her observation on why villagers changing plants in their garden. The story came from her recent field survey in Lampung, Southern Sumatra.
Who does not know Lampung Coffee? Ground coffee from Lampung or familiarly called robusta coffee (varieties) is one of the leading commodity export of Indonesian. Coffea robusta or Robusta coffee is coffee that has 1.1% caffeine content (per coffee weight) is higher than Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee). The coffee has unique taste and flavor. Most of the coffee plantations in Lampung spread across the Lampung plains, including Sumbereje and Pemerihan, West Lampung.
Pemerihan and Sumberejo are pekon (village) located at the edge of the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. The hilly location with the weeds as typical of secondary forests make the region potential for the plants that love the light intensity, but still in need of shade, such as coffee. This is what you see when you visit the pekon. Along the road to pekon, you will be presented with the expanse of coffee plantations, pepper and cacao owned by residents.
The majority of people in the coastal village of West Lampung are farmers who grows coffee, pepper, cacao, Cempaka tree (Michelia champaca) or rice. Each year, farmers can harvest three different crops, coffee, pepper and cacao. Gardening activities are part of their lives which makes them maintain a large garden and a cemented terrace in front of their house to dry the crops before being sold to buyer. The economy of the villagers depend on the three crops. However, climate change can change everything. Drought is not predictable by villagers in recent years. Unpredictable weather makes people steal a glance to other crop, corn.
Recent conditions of pekon along the coast of West Lampung has started ‘yellowing’. Green expanse of coffee plantations, has begun to be replaced with new corn lands. Farmers began to switch to other crops due to the price of coffee that are less competitive in the market. It is also reported by online media Lampung Post, Saibumi.com, and The Official Site of the City of Belfast, that the price of coffee has decreased as much as Rp 2000/kg from Rp 22,000/kg to 20,000/kg, even reach Rp 17,500/kg. Changes in plant in agricultural garden were observed in our biodiversity surveys points located in Sumberejo. Coffee plants belonging to villagers at the points have been cleared into the vast expanse of land ready for planting the corn (Figure 1).
Conditions at the points when we did a survey last August were in contrast to the previous month similar to the condition of the observation point 0 m in transects 1 Sumberejo. When analyzing vegetation in July, this point still ‘crowded’ by the coffee plants. However, when we returned to conduct a survey in August, the coffee plants around the point were already rare. Our curiosity to the phenomenon was addressed by our field assistant, Janji Yanto. The man who was familiarly called Mas Janji explained that most people begin to feel their benefits reduced when planting coffee, especially due to the decline in the market price. Although coffee plants can bring benefits for the farmers, they can invite a wide range of biodiversity, including pollinators.
Coffee is the life support for biodiversity, including birds, insects and bats. We can see it during our survey on birds and bats. Observant eyes of our field assistants, Mas Janji, found a nest of Bar-winged Prinia (Prinia familiaris) located above the coffee tree canopy. The three small and blue eggs are found in a unique shape nest (Figure 2). Perenjak or Bar-winged prinia is a bird that has nest preference over understory tree that has a fairly dense canopy. It shows that coffee can be a habitat for biodiversity including the Bar-winged prinia.
Figure 2. Prinia familiaris (Bar-winged prinia) and its nest at the coffee canopy.
Ripe beans of coffee can invite the birds eating the fruits (frugivores) and act as seed disperser of the coffee itself, such as the Soothy-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster) or Yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) (Figure 3). In addition to birds, the blooming flowers of coffee also invite social insects and butterflies to suck the nectar and become polinator for the coffee plants (Figure 4 & 5).
Figure 3. Sooty-headed bulbul is perching and eating coffee beans
Figure 4. Butterflies recorded at coffee gardens (Euploea spp. and unidentified species.
The replacement of individual coffee plants with other crops, such as corn, can threaten the existence of biodiversity at the site. Pollinators such as butterflies and bees may be experiencing a crisis due to the reduced amount of nectar. Providing habitat for pollinators have a positive impact on the survival of the plant itself as well as the crops. Without the services of pollinators, there won’t be a cup of coffee in the your morning.
Short-term Profit or Sustainable Profit? You decide~
- Strange, M. & A. Jeyarajasingam. 1993. Birds: A photographic guide to bird of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Sun Tree Publisher, Singapore: 253 hlm.
- Valentine, Katie. 2014. Don’t Forget Butterflies! Our Pollination Crisis Is About More Than Honeybees. http://thinkprogress.org. Diakses pada 22 September 2014, pukul 09.20 WIB.