Innovation Under the Canopy: How Doselva is Helping Coffee Farmers Build Climate Resilience Through Agroforestry

A coffee plant in Central America.

In Nicaragua’s traditional coffee-growing communities, the impacts of climate change are quickly descending on farmers. The dry season is stretching out far longer than it ever has before, while the rainy season is growing even shorter. Income from growing coffee is shrinking as a result. In addition, most earnings from the coffee harvest only become available between February and May each year, creating cash flow problems for coffee-producing families during the rest of the year.

As these climate realities become starker, farmers in the highlands of Nicaragua and elsewhere in Central America are increasingly looking for options to diversify their crops, and their incomes. This is what led Doselva CEO and Co-Founder Jefferson Shriver into the agroforestry business of incorporating tree conservation with the growth of crops.

“[Coffee farmers] are using, for the most part, these agroforestry systems,” says Shriver. “But the problem is that the coffee-focused livelihoods are really threatened by climate change [and] by price volatility, and so there’s a real need to develop alternatives to that.”

Botanicals offer new business opportunities

Shriver’s alternative was to develop additional crop options for coffee farmers that use the shade of their existing agroforestry systems to produce more climate-resilient crops. This was the basis for the establishment of Doselva in 2017. Doselva is a social enterprise and anchor business based in Central America that works with 500 farmers to produce, process, and export climate-resilient botanical products like turmeric, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and lemongrass by growing them in the shade of agroforestry systems.

The farmers Doselva works with are able to plant these crops that are more resilient to the impact of extreme weather than coffee underneath the forest canopy on their land, diversifying their incomes away from coffee farming alone. This increases the total sum of their income by three or even four times what they made from growing coffee alone. It also improves income distribution across more months of the year after their yearly coffee harvest ends.

Doselva’s agroforestry impact expands with support from MEDA

Both supply and demand are growing at Doselva. An increasing number of farmers are looking to diversify their coffee crops with more resilient options and Doselva’s export market is expanding in parallel in response to global customer interest in more socially and environmentally sustainable crops. MEDA has partnered with Doselva to respond to this demand by co-investing to increase its processing capacity and outreach to farmers.

With MEDA’s support, Doselva was able to invest in a greenhouse, an industrial washing machine for botanicals, and a cold storage room to increase the quality of farmers’ products for export. A gender equity policy was also implemented across Doselva and farmers have been trained in regenerative agriculture – farming that focuses on soil health – to build a more environmentally and socially sustainable supply chain.

Innovation that benefits forests and people

As the 2024 International Day of Forests on March 21 highlights innovations that are supporting sustainable forest management, Doselva’s business model offers an example of how innovation is changing the game for both forests and people.

“Agroforestry, for us, is a big component of that level of sustainability where people and forests are in harmony,” Shriver explains. “Agroforestry is really important for ecosystem health, for agrobiodiversity, and for farmer livelihoods as well. When a farmer has access to or has been managing an agroforestry system as part of their farm approach versus an open field approach, they have many more assets to work with.”

Doselva has shown that finding a way to work in harmony with forests has the potential to create and sustain decent jobs and better incomes and to deliver important environmental outcomes. While climate change impacts continue to intensify, Nicaragua’s farming communities are fighting back with innovations taking root beneath the shade of their forest canopies.

From 2016-2023, MEDA worked in Nicaragua on the Technolinks+ project, funded by Global Affairs Canada, to improve the livelihoods of women and men living in the rural areas of northern Nicaragua. The project facilitated access to and adoption of environmentally sustainable agricultural technologies to increase productivity, quality, and profitability for approximately 38,000 smallholder farmers and 90 agribusinesses and cooperatives like Doselva. During its implementation, Technolinks+ created 2,610 decent work opportunities in Nicaragua.



  • MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

    MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Latest Posts

A woman beekeeper in Tanzania holds up a honeycomb.

A Sweeter Future: Tanzanian Honey Processor Paves the Way for Women in Beekeeping

April 22, 2024

Beekeeping is a big and buzzing industry in Tanzania. With support from MEDA, Central Park Bees is breaking barriers and...

Diana Orembe demonstrates her fish feed solution.

Cutting Back on Food Waste in Tanzania: A Conversation with NovFeed’s Diana Orembe

March 29, 2024

Hear how Diana Orembe, Co-Founder and CEO of NovFeed, is tackling the food waste challenge in Tanzania through an innovative...

Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines presents at MEDA Cacao Business Forum.

Business Forum Brings Together Key Players in the Philippines’ Cacao Sector to Accelerate Inclusive Growth

March 26, 2024

A Cacao Business Forum in Davao, Philippines brought together stakeholders from across the cacao sector to foster more inclusive growth.