Waking up to coffee science
Coffee isn’t just a favourite drink for early risers. It’s also a significant commodity, and an important part of the world economy—especially in the global South, where a large majority of coffee crops are grown. And as climate change threatens agricultural practices that the coffee business has come to rely on, a critical question emerges: How can we ensure that the world’s coffee production is sustainable?
With this enormous challenge in mind, UNESCO-TWAS and the Ernesto Illy Foundation are co-organizing an upcoming event, “Ernesto Illy Colloquia: Sustainability challenges in coffee growing worldwide”. Scheduled for 27–29 September, the Colloquia will feature experts in coffee science and economics, using a hybrid format combining an international online audience with in-person attendance at the Budinich Lecture Hall at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.
The Colloquia seek to link young scientists with sustainability experts, advance coffee research, and develop collaborations that support coffee cultivation. Participants to the Colloquia will include 25 scientists in coffee research, accurately selected by UNESCO-TWAS, and the 25 students attending the Ernesto Illy Foundation's Master Degree in Economics and Science of Coffee—a unique first-level course that combines online teaching with a month-long residency and in-person lessons in Trieste starting on 5 September. Participants of both groups come mainly from least developed countries. Topics for discussion will be the sustainability challenges in agriculture and coffee-growing, biodiversity breeding and genetics, regenerative agriculture, and the need for greater scientific capacity in developing countries to research coffee agriculture, among others.
“Through this event, the Foundation wants to remember and fulfil Ernesto Illy’s legacy, pioneering sustainability ideas and practice,” said Furio Suggi Liverani, Director of the Ernesto Illy Foundation. “The Fondazione Ernesto Illy has always been recognized in Trieste’s scientific landscape, by cooperating with private and public institutions, including TWAS. The aim of the Colloquia is to create a network for scientific cooperation, to support multidisciplinary research on the future of coffee-growing and regenerative agriculture practices in general, in particular for mitigating the effects of climate change and promoting sustainable economic, social and environmental development.”
“This event represents a fantastic opportunity not only for the coffee sector but for coffee-growing countries throughout the global South,” said TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi. “We are most pleased to partner with the Ernesto Illy Foundation on these Colloquia. And we believe that the insights and research links that will emerge from this event will greatly help in our efforts to ensure sustainable coffee production and economic growth for developing countries.”
The Colloquia were originally expected to take place in 2020, but these plans were delayed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Presentations by speakers at the event will be recorded, and sessions will be available on TWAS YouTube channel.
Eleven speakers are slated for the event, with seven expected to be present in Trieste, and four giving their talks through teleconferencing. Confirmed speakers include high-level scientists such as ICTP climatologist Filippo Giorgi, who was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and who will be present on ICTP Campus. Online presentations will be made by Vittorio Venturi, Scientific Coordinator for the Trieste-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology; world-renowned sustainability expert and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in the United States Jeffrey Sachs; and TWAS Fellow, soil scientist and Director of Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University Rattan Lal.
On the third day, attendees will participate in an activity with break-out groups that was designed to facilitate the learning experience and help establish new research connections.