Good Practices

Coffee cultivation between big trees in sloping fallows [Lao People's Democratic Republic]

Definition of the Technology:

Coffee plants cultivated between big trees in sloping fallows for income generation as well as maintaining biodiversity and increased forest cover.


Since 1980 a number of villagers worked on coffee plantations in Paksong District, Bolaven Plateau of Champasack Province. Thus, they learnt how to cultivate coffee and brought their knowledge to their villages due to suitable natural conditions there. Temperature suitable for coffee there ranges from 15 – 25°C and pH levels of soils between 5.5 and 6.5, average rainfall between 1000-1500 mm/year, and altitude of approximately 800 m.a.s.l. Subsequently, small coffee plantations were observed all over the region, but failed soon because the villagers planted coffee intercropped with upland rice within their traditional extensive slash and burn practice. One of the reasons of very low coffee yields was the lacking shadow and the inconsistent humidity during dry season.
In 2009, a project supported by IFAD promoted coffee cultivated between big trees as a trial to villagers in Paksong District. But the selection of “Mai Thorng” (Erythrina stricta Roxburgh) - a type of savannah tree that provides enough shade to coffee plants - unfortunately was not successful as well, as it was not adapted to the local climate. Therefore, in 2012, Mr. Bouathong in Chalurnxay village, Xanay district of Attapue province tried to use locally grown trees which provide adequate shade to the coffee plants. They started to clear carefully fallow fields from vegetation whilst preserving bigger trees (age of fallow 5- 10 years and older). This included most of the trees older than 5 years. The clearance has to be conducted in January by removing smaller trees and shrubs. However, it is important that the remaining trees do not create to excessive shadow, as coffee plant needs approximately 50-60 percent of sunlight to grow well. The space between the seedlings is 3 x 3 or 4 x 3 meters. The size of the planting holes is 50x50x50cm. Before planting of coffee seedlings organic manure has to be filled in the hole to improve soil fertility (5kg/hole). To establish such kind of coffee plantation following inputs are needed: coffee seedlings, sunlight protection sheets, watering pot, fork, plastic bags for the seedlings, and organic fertilizer. The most important input is the labour for selective clearance, land preparation, and fencing (around 5 to 10 workers for 1 ha). From the very beginning a wooden fence out of timber from previously cleared small trees has to be installed for getting protection against livestock damages. Also weeding (3-4 times a year) and thinning of tree branches is required. The decayed plant material can be used as soil cover to increase natural soil nutrients and to control storm water from run-off.
Outcomes from this method indicated that coffee plants grow successfully with healthy stems and suckers, and dark green leaves. And coffee plant survival rate of 80 percent was far higher compared to the rate of only 50% in former plantations without trees. Three years after planting coffee plants produces coffee beans.
Coffee now is playing an important role for the local land users regarding revenue generation. The coffee prices in mountainous areas of Xanxay District vary depending on species and range from 5,000 to 8000Kip/kg for fresh coffee beans; 12,000 to 16000Kip/kg for threshed coffee beans (average annual income 5,000,000Kip / household). Estimated production of fresh beans is between 4,000-5,000Kg/ha. Yields significantly increase compared to old plantations that provided only 500-800Kg/ha.
Purpose and advantage of this technology include the use of fallow and degraded forest areas to the benefit of local land users such us improved land use rights and reduction of land conflicts because of stabilization of shifting cultivation. People are required to find animal manure to fertilize the coffee plant, but they can also use coffee bean husk as green compost around the coffee plant, as this promotes soil nutrients, soil organisms (e.g. earthworms), and it keeps soil moisture and increases soil porosity. Benefits of this agroforestry that reduction of slash and burn practice. The coffee cultivation in a agroforsestry system as permanent land use practices reduces pressure on forest land, increases the forest canopy, preserve bigger trees as habitat for local animals, and promotes higher plant diversity. Furthermore, people can collect local mushrooms and other edible plants/vegetables such as Phak Varn, Phak Koum, rattan shoots, ferns, and others.


Lao People's Democratic Republic

Region/ State/ Province:

Attapue province

Further specification of location:

Xanxay district

Specify the spread of the Technology:

  • evenly spread over an area

If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:

  • < 0.1 km2 (10 ha)

For mor detials

Source: LaoCAT, NAFRI, MAF

Author: LaoCAT, WOCAT