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Ine Kewe ‘A Story Of Arabica Gayo’

Riska Munawarah (Indonesia)

In the Bener Meriah region, one of Indonesia’s best Arabica coffee producing areas. The daily struggle of coffee farmers in the face of climate change is depicted. Murniati (80) has no idea why her coffee plants have recently been damaged. “I need to clean up these damaged plants,” he said, cutting off some dried coffee plant branches. Pests caused rot in several coffee cherries on Murniati’s plantation. “We didn’t harvest this season,” he lamented. Previously, he could produce up to 200 cans of coffee at a time. However, there are only about 70 cans left.

Win Irbi, his next-door neighbour, expressed similar concerns. “We now frequently experience losses due to weather.” Unpredictable weather changes cause farmers to be concerned about crop failure. Gayo coffee farmers are a vulnerable community on the front lines of climate change.

Because of the high rainfall during the pollination season, Win Irbi claims that the bees that help pollinate are no longer alight. When farmers require rain, however, the season changes to dry. “We had to use a hose to get water from the mountain.” Unexpected seasonal changes have always been a source of concern for coffee farmers in this region.

On the other hand, during harvest, which should be in hot weather, it rains continuously, preventing the coffee beans from drying properly. In such cases, farmers typically ferment coffee beans in water until the sun rises for two or three days.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the climate anomalies that affect coffee production is the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO has a greater impact in the tropics, which also produce the majority of the world’s coffee. El Nio, the warm phase of ENSO, causes the dry season to last 2-4 months longer than usual.

Coffee plants only require a two to three month dry season, so the longer dry season caused by El Nio reduces coffee production. A drought that lasts more than three months causes the leaves and twigs to dry out, and many seeds to fall out. Aside from the dry months, the wet months that occur throughout the year reduce the coffee flower extraction process by 95%, resulting in a lower population of productive plants. Temperature rises as a result of climate change, slowing the growth, flowering, and fruiting of coffee plants.

The Ministry of Agriculture expects coffee production to reach 12 million tonnes in 2019, according to data from the Directorate General of Plantation. Coffee production, on the other hand, increased only 12% per year between 1970 and 2015.

Gayo’s forest coverage is also affected by productivity issues. Farmers frequently acquire new land in order to establish new gardens. The old, overgrown garden had been abandoned. Climate change, on the other hand, will have an impact on the amount of land available for coffee plants in the future. CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) discovered that by 2050, the amount of land available for Arabica coffee would have decreased by 80%.

This is also recognised by coffee farmers like Win Irbi. “There are some newly opened lands at a higher altitude than here, but the land there is not suitable for coffee planting due to its high altitude.”


Riska Munawarah is a documentary photographer based in Aceh, Indonesia. Previously she worked as a photojournalist at a local news agency. She is always focused on the story and its social context. She has been interested in people and their relationship issues. Including about social change, human rights, and the environment. She usually capture any moments everyday. But she also interested another approaches. She was studied about photography di Permata Photo Journalist Grand. She was selected as runner up for “The Best Work of PPG 2019” which held by the Panna Foto Institute. Her pictures already published at Jakarta International Photo Festival in 2022.