Coffee Knowledge Hub

Re:co Symposium - Exploring the Intrinsic

Walk on the Wild Side: The Future of Wild Coffees in Your Cup

In late 2018, scientists rediscovered Coffea stenophylla— what is it and what is its potential?

Lecture Overview

In late 2018, scientists rediscovered Coffea stenophylla— a species unrelated to either Arabica or robusta—in the wild in Sierra Leone, and later confirmed century-old reports of its high cup quality. This rediscovery, and other events, have reinvigorated discussion about the role of non-commercial and underutilized species in the future of coffee. This panel will include different perspectives on wild and underutilized coffee, including an overview of species with commercial or breeding potential led by Dr. Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the importance of conserving wild species, the measures required for effective conservation, the legal and moral issues around access to wild species, the potential for using wild species in coffee breeding, and examples of how farmers are already exploring niche markets for rare species.

The panel

Dr. Aaron Davis

Dr Aaron Davis is Senior Research Leader of Crops and Global Change at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom. His research is focused on coffee, documented in a broad range of scientific publications, including those on the naming and classification of coffee species, molecular (DNA) studies, conservation, climate change, agroecology and sustainable development. He is the world’s leading authority on coffee species and has traveled widely in Africa and Madagascar to study coffee plants in the wild and in cultivation. His ongoing work includes the use and development of wild and underutilized coffee species, particularly within the context of climate change adaptation and sensory diversification.

Vern Long

Vern Long is the Chief Executive Officer of World Coffee Research, the world’s first global, industry-driven collaborative agricultural R&D organization for coffee. A plant breeder by training, Long brings 25+ years of experience in international agricultural research with a focus on building collaborations between industry, government and research institutions to harness the potential of agriculture to drive economic opportunity for smallholder farmers. She received her PhD in plant breeding from Cornell University.

Hanna Neuschwander

Hanna is the communications director for World Coffee Research, the only organization in the world applying advanced agricultural science for coffee on a world-wide, collaborative basis. She writes and speaks globally about efforts to secure the future of coffee agriculture. Her writing and commentary has appeared in the Time Magazine, the Washington Post, CNN, BBC, and many others. She is the author of Left Coast Roast, a guidebook to coffee roasters on the west coast.

Dr. Sarada Krishnan

Dr. Sarada Krishnan is the Executive Director of International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA). She also serves as the Director of Horticulture and Center for Global Initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture from India and a Master of Science degree in Horticulture from Colorado State University. Her doctorate research at University of Colorado, Boulder, focused on the conservation genetics of wild coffee (Coffea spp.) in Madagascar.

Coffee has been a big part of her life with her family owning coffee plantations in India while she was growing up. Sarada now owns coffee plantations in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. In 2016/2017, Sarada was involved in developing the Global Strategy for the Conservation of Coffee Genetic Resources in collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust and World Coffee Research.

Sarada has served/serves on several local, national and international boards and committees. She is a faculty affiliate with Colorado State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and serves on the CSU Dean of Agriculture’s AgIndustry Leadership Council. She serves on the USDA National Genetic Resources Advisory Council and is the chair of USDA’s Coffee and Cacao Crop Germplasm Committee. She is on the board of Women Frist International Fund, a nonprofit organization providing long-term partnership grants for women’s economic empowerment in East Africa and India. She has published numerous papers and chapters on coffee genetic resources, botanic gardens and sustainable agriculture in peer reviewed journals and books.

Dr. Catherine Kiwuka

Catherine Kiwuka is an in-situ conservationist with Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation, and she is based at the Plant Genetic Resources Centre. She is passionate about securing Plant Genetic Resources (PGR), exploring the potential within PGR, and sustainably utilising PGR in ways that contribute to livelihood needs. For her PhD. Catherine explored the potential within Uganda’s Robusta coffee diversity in relation to drought stress. Among other initiatives, she is working with farmers and other partners to explore the drought tolerance, agronomic potential and marketability of other wild species of coffee e.g. C. liberica and C. eugenioides.

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