FARMERS MAKING INVESTEMENTS IN THE FUTURE
Tanzania is an incredible exciting country, especially when it comes to coffee. The farms in the north may be the most renowned, the south is just as fruitful. Our friends in Igale, a small village just outside Mbeya in southwest Tanzania, are the perfect example. After a long journey down narrow gravel roads, I´m finally there – side-by-side with the next generation coffee farmers.
Making the next generation see a future in coffee farming is, next to climate change, one of our biggest challenges. If more young people don’t take over their parents’ farms, unique flavours and qualities that have been developed over many years will be lost.
Igale in Tanzania is no exception. Coffee is farmed on small-scale family farms and the average age amongst the farmers is worryingly high. This is why we introduced Next Generation Coffee– our investment in the next generation of coffee farmers. Fortunately, upon my visit to our friends in Igale, it’s clear the project is making a difference.
I climb out of the jeep and gaze across a fantastic landscape – lush green coffee farms sprawl over billowing slopes at an altitude of 1,500-1,600 metres. And even though it’s a Sunday and their day off, many of the coffee farmers come to greet me with open arms and wide smiles.
The sun beats down, so we seek shade inside the village school. Here we spend a couple of hours talking about the coffee farmers’ challenges and opportunities, and – most importantly – how we can help one another.
I’m taken to the pilot farm, where young coffee farmers are educated in a wide range of farming methods, from pruning coffee bushes correctly to sowing cover crops. Whenever I’m in Tanzania, I’m overwhelmed by the thirst for knowledge amongst its young coffee farmers; during our years of carrying out development projects here, this passion for learning has never wavered.
One day I join Martha and David Angomwhile on a stroll through the village, over a footbridge and along the creek to the small coffee farm they inherited from David’s grandparents.
I immediately see the positive impact Next Generation Coffee has had; old coffee bushes grow well with new, more resistant and high-quality Arabica plants. This investment in the future is possible thanks to the fact that Martha and David managed to double their production and income, giving them the power to continue investing.
Throughout the rest of my stay I meet more young coffee farmers who are filled with passion and excitement for the future of coffee: Siaba and Frank, Jane and Emanuel, Ikupa and Amani. They all talk proudly and excitedly about the beautiful coffee they farm and the progress they continue to make through Next Generation Coffee. In the last year, we’ve intensified our investment in Igale’s young people, and from what I can see, it’s made a huge impact and will continue to do so.
The truth is, unless a new generation of coffee farmers take over, good coffee will be lost to history. Fortunately for us, our young friends in Igale are ready to pick up the mantle.
// Tony Broman