by David Pohl
I previously wrote about our meeting with coffee importer Sustainable Harvest in Costa Rica last year, and the wonderful relationships that developed out of it. One of Equator's newest relationships to develop out of the meeting is with the coffee farmers living near the Gombe region of Tanzania, in a place called Kigoma. We just received the first (very small) shipment of this coffee, and we thought we would share with you some information on the good work being done there.
Here is some background on the Kigoma project: Sustainable Harvest, our Tanzanian importer, has cuppers, agronomists and training staff that help the 2,700 growers learn how to create coffee that meets the standards of the specialty market, and get better prices for their work in the process. As a result, the farmers are being asked to protect the region around the Gombe chimpanzee reserve from further deforestation. The remote area of the Gombe region of Tanzania is a perfect coffee growing environment, but farmers traditionally used inefficient methods to soak, ferment and pulp their beans, wasting precious water and resulting in coffee of inconsistent quality that sold for a low price. With poor incomes from coffee, farmers were tempted to convert their plantations to other crops, cutting down the shade cover in the process. This results in encroachment on the Gombe Park and threatens its chimpanzee population – one of the few remaining in Africa. While the chimps can coexist peacefully with coffee, other crops such as corn or cassava result in a loss of tree cover and increased soil erosion; these crops also attract the chimps, bringing them and humans into conflict. To combat these issues, Sustainable Harvest introduced three technologies to increase the income of these coffee farmers: Water-efficient coffee mills (“eco-pulping” machines) will enable the farmers to process coffee at a consistently high quality with relatively little input of scarce water; Cupping equipment (for roasting and tasting samples) will enable them to appreciate the quality and value of their coffee; and, Barcode readers linked to computer databases will allow them to record their quality assessments, manage coffee stores, and communicate with buyers and roasters outside of Tanzania, empowering the growers to manage their production for maximum profit. In an email sent to me recently, Sustainable Harvest's on the ground field technician, Sarah Morrocchi, says "I have attached a picture of one of the water systems being built in Kigoma (pictured above). This one is a 45m3 rain water harvest tank. A tank this big has never been built in the region. The water is collected through the guttering system of a primary school near the washing station. The water will be used to irrigate and wash coffee, but during the rest of the year it will provide water to the kids in school."
We at Equator are delighted to support this project through an initial purchase of coffee from Kigoma, at a price that will help support the great work being done on the ground. We are using this coffee as a central component in the Zulu and Panther blends while supplies last. Next year we hope to have enough Kigoma coffee to use in both our blends and as a featured single origin coffee. As work continues in Kigoma over the coming years, Equator will strengthen its presence there, establishing a solid link to this unique coffee region. Click Here for the 2007-2008 Sustainable Harvest Tanzania Report