(Photo credit: Ministerio de Defensa del Perú / Flickr)

Tropical forests slow climate change by absorbing and storing carbon. But in Peru’s Alto Mayo Protected Forest, many coffee farmers clear-cut the trees to use the land for their crops.

But with this method, the soil’s fertility is depleted quickly. So often, farmers move to new parts of the forest and cut down more trees.

Hank Cauley, a former senior vice president with Conservation International, says the nonprofit is working with coffee farmers to slow deforestation in the region.

“What we did was we engaged the communities at helping them identify ways in which they could more intensively manage their coffee farms,” he says, “and improve … the quality of the coffee as well.”

So for example, they trained farmers to grow coffee in the shade and to make organic fertilizer that can replenish the soil so the same area can be farmed year after year.

Conservation International now helps manage a co-op of about 500 coffee growers in the region, helping connect them with buyers willing to pay more for a sustainably grown product.

Cauley says that significantly increases the payments to the local coffee producers and protects the forest at the same time.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.