Why a Catalog?

Rising temperatures, distorted rainfall patterns and emerging challenges with pests and disease caused by climate change are affecting coffee production around the globe. With the recognition that retaining and replanting trees in coffee landscapes will be a critical strategy to climate change adaptation, farmers are exploring the need to maintain or re-introduce canopy cover in and around production systems, creating agroforestry settings that can play a central role in combating the effects of climate change and supporting income diversification strategies. However, farmers and practitioners often lack the information needed to select shade trees that are good for coffee, support and diversify household incomes and provide benefits to wildlife and ecosystem services.

The Shade Catalog is meant to do just that – provide coffee farmers and technical assistance teams key information about tree species that have been found in and around coffee landscapes. From the main attributes of the species, to the use and benefits, through to propagation and management tips, the catalog is a useful guide for whole-farm planning.

This catalog is intended to promote the diversity of shade trees within Indonesian coffee farming systems with applications for any group propagating shade trees or providing trainings about the importance of shade trees as a component of sustainable coffee management.

Why Indonesia?

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of coffee, with nearly 2 million smallholder coffee farmers managing 1.2 million hectares of coffee land1. The country is also one of the most biodiverse areas on the plant, although many of the endemic plant and animal species face extinction due to habitat loss2. Coffee is grown primarily in remote villages, and sustainability of the farming system impacts the wellbeing of coffee farmers, rural communities, the economy, and the environment.

Shade trees on coffee farms are an integral part of this sustainability and provide resources to farmers, wildlife, and the coffee crop itself. However, availability of most shade tree species is low. Government agencies, NGOs and international coffee trading companies distribute some trees for free, but the frequency and distribution can be inconsistent. These groups primarily provide nitrogen fixing shade trees—especially Lamtoro (Leucaena spp.)—timber trees, and fruit trees. This catalog should serve as a reference to select, propagate and promote additional tree species throughout Indonesia’s vast coffee growing regions.

Indonesia primarily produces two coffee species—arabica (Coffea arabica) and robusta (Coffea canephora)—which are often grown under different tree species given different elevational and regional distributions. Robusta, which has a higher caffeine content but less desirable flavor profile than Arabica, is concentrated in Southern Sumatra, Lampung, and Bengkulu at elevations ranging from 40 to 900 meters above sea level. These regions produce ~60% of all of Indonesia’s coffee. Arabica coffee grows at higher elevations, ~1,000 to 1,500 meters primarily in North Sumatra, Aceh, and Java3.

How are shade trees currently used in Indonesian coffee farms?

Smallholder farmers cultivate coffee in diverse farming systems that can be categorized as complex agroforestry, simple agroforestry, and monoculture4. Complex agroforestry, which includes most traditional agroforestry systems, typically include 6 to 30 tree species per farm that form multi-layered strata and provide shade for the coffee. These systems are typically located close to the farmer’s house, require low levels of maintenance, and have irregular spacing of both coffee and shade trees. Additional annual and perennial crops are cultivated together with the coffee, and can be used for household subsistence, for ceremonial or religious purposes, or sold. Despite producing low coffee yields, complex agroforestry systems are considered productive and sustainable at the farm level.

To boost coffee production, simplified agroforestry systems are also implemented by smallholder farmers. These systems typically maintain less than 5 shade tree species per farm that form a single shade stratum. The shade and coffee plantings are more regularly spaced than in complex agroforestry system and benefit from regular maintenance. The shade canopy is primarily dominated by leguminous shade trees (Family Fabaceae) that fix nitrogen, regulate the intensity of sunlight to the coffee, and may provide forage for livestock. Leguminous species also provide biodiversity benefits ecosystem services by attracting and sustaining insect, bird, and mammal communities that may help regulate pests. Trees with fruits that can be consumed or sold are commonly included in these systems as well.

Although simple agroforestry systems are widely promoted by government agencies and NGOs, monoculture systems (“sun coffee”) are common in some regions. In North Sumatra, for example, monocultures are promoted and employed to maximize coffee yields, and many farmers may be unaware of shade tree benefits.

Choosing the right shade tree

Agroforestry systems generate significant environmental benefits though there are a number of tradeoffs that should be considered when providing guidance to farmers as they consider these options. Shaded coffee typically has lower productivity than full sun coffee and increase the cost of weeding, while pest pressure may be lower and natural predators more abundant in shade systems and therefore require less costly pest management products5. Economic trade-offs should be considered to find the right combination of shade trees that provide environmental benefits while generating economic returns. In addition to levels of revenue, the timelines are also important to consider, as timber species take longer to generate returns than fruit trees or other revenue generating shade variety options. Different management regimens and the timing of labor requirements should also be considered, as shade management can be labor intensive on mature shade trees and may also require special knowledge and training. These tradeoffs should be examined to ensure strong alignment with farmer needs and opportunities to help catalyze changes in farm management to advance broader environmental goals.

A living document

This catalog contains information about the tree species commonly found within Indonesian coffee farming systems. These trees occur may be planted by farmers or may occur and regenerate naturally. Data were compiled from interviews with farmer groups, agroforestry experts, and published literature in English and Bahasa. This catalog is intended to be a living document that will be refined and updated as more information or research becomes available about these species.


1 Neilson, J. et al ,2015. Towards a more competitive and dynamic value chain for Indonesian coffee-Working Paper #7. Prepared for the World Bank, Washington DC.

2 Sodhi, N. S., Koh, L. P., Brook, B. W., & Ng, P. K. (2004). Southeast Asian biodiversity: an impending disaster. Trends in ecology & evolution, 19(12), 654-660.

3 Ministry of Agriculture. 2019. Tree Crop Estate Statistics of Indonesia 2018-2020.

4 Hulupi R, Martini E. 2013. Pedoman budi daya dan pemeliharaan tanaman kopi di kebun campur. Bogor, Indonesia: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Regional Program.

5Johnson, M. D., J. L. Kellermann, and A. M. Stercho. "Pest reduction services by birds in shade and sun coffee in Jamaica." Animal conservation 13, no. 2 (2010): 140-147.