Coffee in Galapagos: A new boost for Agriculture in the Islands | November 6th, 2008

A couple of years ago I was staying with my brother and sister-in-law in York and we went for a cup of coffee to a local ‘tea room’ well known for threatening your waist. To my surprise they were serving Galapagos coffee, I had to have a cup. I was no stranger to Galapagos coffee, having picked it, washed it, roasted it and drunk it in Galapagos, but I was not aware of it being exported. On further investigation I found that it was being supplied by one farm on San Cristobal.


Coffee provides an important opportunity for local farmers. It is a high-value, low-volume product that can generate significant income.


– It is a non-aggressive species that can serve as a barrier for protected areas against highly aggressive plant and insect species.

– Most coffee species grow much better in the presence of shade. Coffee production meshes well with ecological, conservation, restoration and reforestation initiatives, especially those involving scalesia.

– During the production cycle, coffee’s water requirement is considerably less than many other crops. Even when considering the water that is often used in post-harvest processing, coffee’s “water footprint” is less than that of many lucrative alternatives.

– The by-product from the pulping and fermentation process can be used for composting in organic agriculture.

Currently most coffee grown in Galapagos is dried in the islands (sun dried) and sent to the mainland for roasting and packaging. A small portion of the coffee produced in Galapagos is roasted and packaged in the islands using artisanal techniques and is later sold locally.

Local producers are in the process of forming a cooperative that will help to process and market locally-grown coffee, but they must still address several key issues as they consider expanding organic coffee production in Galapagos:

– It will be important to identify and adopt the best practices available in terms of minimizing the use of water and energy in the post-harvest process.

– Most of the value of coffee is added during the process of roasting and packaging. If Galapagos producers are to benefit, they will need to establish sophisticated and reliable transportation and marketing channels.

– Harvesting coffee requires intensive labour. This represents an opportunity for local human resources, but if not managed carefully it could result in pressure to bring labourers in from the mainland.

– It will be important to make sure that increased coffee production is carried out in an environmentally sound manner (organic, shade, certification, etc.). Luckily, the market pays a premium for organically-grown coffee, and major pests in coffee production are not present in Galapagos. It is expected that these incentives will encourage producers to use appropriate techniques and to support quarantine and inspection measures to avoid the introduction of coffee pests to Galapagos.

One local group exploring the sustainability of this kind of agriculture is the locally-based conservation group FUNDAR ( FUNDAR has received funding from a Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiative designed to reduce the impact of invasive species in Galapagos. GEF funding will also finance pilot projects involving new kinds of production and added value activities.

With thanks to Galapagos Conservancy for permission to reprint this article.