You partner with an amazing team.
You continue to believe that coffee is a relationship builder that forms connections all the way from a seed to a cup of coffee shared with a friend.
You learn to trust; you learn to call out for help, and you learn that Coffee Farmers are devoted, and enthusiastic individuals who care about you getting delicious coffee just as much as you care about providing delicious coffee to your customers.
Sitting at a backpacker in Moshi around the breakfast table, there are other drifters, adventurers, nomads, sitting around the table with us and we start discussing what our plans are for the day. The Spaniards are off to a market to try to find a new pair of jeans, the Israeli is either going to try to find internet or join the Spaniards. My turn, “what are you going to do today?” I am going to try distributing and planting 30,000 coffee seedlings… the table falls silent…
“How the heck are you going to do that!?”
In 2019 we were starting to think of new ways to make a bigger impact in the farming communities, up to this point we had worked on projects that only really impacted farmers in a significant way.
Detailed discussions commenced with our joint venture partners Woolworths on how to best go about making the most significant difference.
It was time to step up our game.
When we develop these projects the most sensible thing to do is meet with the farmers and discuss what they need and how we can make the biggest impact in their lives. Thereafter we take all of that knowledge and discussion away and distil it into something realistic that we can do and then filter it through the lens of our core mission which is to improve the quality and quantity of the coffee that we can buy, roast, and sell to you, the most important part of the supply chain to make delicious coffee.
This is how the idea of project canopy came about, there were a few concerns that had to be addressed –
- The average age of a coffee tree in the Kilimanjaro region was well over the recommended 25 years, so there was a need for new seedlings.
- The variety of tree that is able to be planted there is susceptible to disease and with the climate changing, there is no slowing down of some of these diseases.
The farmers need training on how to improve their farming practices to maximize their land use and improve the quality of the coffee.
The farmers are just like you and I, at the end of the day they just need extra cash in their pocket to achieve their goals.
We really have built remarkable relationships with so many amazing people in Moshi who are smarter than I could ever hope to be, one of them is a doctor at the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI). Dr Kilambo has spent his life developing a coffee variety that is disease resistant and works well in Tanzania with its climate and unique challenges. Spending a day with him sparked the idea of project canopy – using TaCRI to assist in providing training to farmers and field officers. As well as buying these new coffee seedling varieties that Dr Kilambo developed to distribute to and plant with the farmers.
Then 2020 happened and we were not able to travel at all due to pandemic restrictions.
Sitting in Pretoria planning a project 3815km away really is not easy, how to find a truck to transport seedlings, what do we need to cover in the training for the organic farmers to learn good practices and maintain their organic certification… so many questions and with a global pandemic going on, so few answers.
Working with Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union we overcame these challenges and developed a deeper relationship while doing so. I wrote in another blog post that while the lockdown really was awful but there were unexpectedly good things that developed from it and getting to work on this project with our in-country partners was one of them.
The project officially started on the 12th of July 2021 with sixteen farmers going for their 10 days of training at TaCRI.
I expected the training to be good, but my expectations were exceeded! The morning would start with an in-depth theory lesson ranging from planning a coffee field, to planting, caring for the trees including pest and disease prevention and treatment, harvesting, and processing the coffee and then to finish off there was a written exam to gauge the level of understanding and retention. All the students passed comfortably!
That was the first step in the project though, if we could improve the methods that farmers are using in the fields, we could start to improve the quality of the coffee coming out and the farmers could increase their yield too.
The next step was to plant the new seedlings with the farmers. In a joint effort, TriBeCa, Woolworths and the W cafes we bought 50,000 seedlings from TaCRI and these are to be distributed to farmers who have a very old average tree age and are either already organic certified or in the process of certification.
We chose to work with a primary society called Masama Sawwe first. They already showed to have good agricultural practices and had started to diversify their crops by planting avocados, vanilla, and banana. They also recently became certified organic, and we thought that it would be a good idea to get a strong blueprint from a group like this so that we could roll the project out to weaker primary societies going forward.
So that brings us to the breakfast table at the backpackers in Moshi.
How will we plant 30,000 coffee seedlings?
The truth is that we collaborated with a spectacular team on the ground there. On Sunday there was an announcement made that there would be seedlings available on Monday and farmers that belonged to the primary society were able to apply for the seedlings. The conditions were that they needed to be a part of the society, they needed to be organic or in the process of becoming organic and they needed to have the holes for the seedlings already dug and prepared.
The field officers and contact farmers that attended the training the week before were on hand to assist and give training and assistance and help with the distribution of the seedlings. The secretary of the society was standing by recording which farmers received seedlings and quantities they took, and field officers made sure that they planted into the ground and cared for.
So, I guess now is the point that I come clean and admit that I only planted two seedlings under the close supervision of a field officer. I thought that it would be best if the professionals do the actual planting to allow for maximum success.
After the rains we planted the remaining 20,000 seedlings and we have continued to monitor the effect that we have made.
So how the Heck do you plant 30,000 seedlings?
You partner with an amazing team.
You continue to believe that coffee is a relationship builder that forms connections all the way from a seed to a cup of coffee shared with a friend. You learn to trust; you learn to call out for help, and you learn that Coffee Farmers are devoted and enthusiastic individuals who care about you getting delicious coffee just as much as you care about providing delicious coffee to your customers.