A guide at a coffee farm in Boquete in western Panama whispered, "You are very lucky to be able to see that bird so soon."
The guide was referring to the quetzal, which locals refer to as a messenger of the god of farming, with its bright green and red colors and long tail. Its numbers had all but disappeared after natural forests were cut down to make way for coffee farms and other projects.
However, the owner of the coffee farm, Ricardo Koyner, 46, made efforts to allow the quetzal to return. Those measures included using natural lumber to provide shade necessary to grow coffee, planting trees that would bear fruit eaten by the quetzal and leaving underbrush untouched.
Koyner's efforts are one example of "sustainable coffee," which is a way of reducing the burden on the surrounding environment, an effort that has spread in recent years. The farms also protect the rights of its workers and such trends have gained greater global attention.
Some consumers have begun purchasing such sustainable coffee even if it costs slightly more.
According to Conservation International, an international nongovernmental organization, 83 of the 279 threatened species in Panama now inhabit coffee farms in the nation.
A sustainable coffee project in Panama's neighbor Colombia has been included in UNESCO's list of world cultural heritage sites. The coffee cultural landscape was added to the list in June because, according to UNESCO's description, it was "an exceptional example of a sustainable and productive cultural landscape that is unique and representative."
In Colombia, about 500,000 coffee farmers cultivate the bean on farmland totaling 900,000 hectares, about the size of Kagoshima Prefecture.
As a primary product, coffee has the second highest global trading figure behind petroleum. It is mainly cultivated in developing nations that lie in a region near the equator known as the "coffee belt" and exported mainly to the advanced economies.
However, the sharp fluctuations in price meant many coffee farming households faced an uncertain livelihood. Development of coffee farms also contributed to environmental destruction.
The idea of sustainability arose in coffee consuming nations from about 10 years ago when many coffee farmers were forced out of business due to sharp price fluctuations. Consumers became willing to pay slightly higher coffee prices if that meant producers and the environment could be protected.
A number of organizations emerged that certified whether coffee was produced in a sustainable way.
In 2010, Japan imported about 79,000 tons of coffee from Colombia, the second largest amount next to Brazil. However, in Colombia, the wastewater that emerged from the washing of the beans to remove it from the fruit led to severe pollution of nearby rivers. The rights of seasonal workers who picked the coffee were also insufficiently protected.
An organization of coffee producers began to provide support measures for farming sustainable coffee from both environmental and economic sides, by providing instruction to small farmers on how to convert to less polluting farming methods and by constructing schools for the children of farm workers.