One Connection Can Make A Difference

One Connection Can Make A Difference:
Growing Coffee Provides Livelihood and Preserves Habitat for Chimps

Growing coffee to preserve habitat for chimpanzees may seem like an unusual way to improve livelihoods. But one connection can generate a ripple effect which benefits farmers, preserves the environment and protects the chimpanzees of the Gombe Reserve. When USAID East Africa grantee the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), located in the Kigoma district of Tanzania, linked up with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, it was a coup for chimpanzees and corporate social responsibility. The result of this partnership is Tanzanian Gombe Reserve coffee which is sold by Green Mountain Coffee. Since that connection was made in 2006, a lot has changed for the coffee growers around Kigoma and the chimpanzees that inhabit the nearby Gombe Reserve.

Kigoma, an impoverished area near the Gombe Stream National Park, is part of JGI’s Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education, “Take-Care” (TACARE) Project. Since 1994, TACARE has worked to give local communities the tools they need to grow their economies and conserve their environment, which is home to critically endangered wild chimpanzees. A major effort under TACARE is to motivate coffee farmers in strategically located villages to practice chimpanzee-friendly coffee growing by planting shade trees so that dwindling chimp populations can tra-vel through reforested corridors. Originally USAID partnered with TACARE to train 2,700 small-scale coffee farmers in Kigoma’s Kalinzi Cooperative in techniques to restore soil fertility and intercrop coffee with shade trees and food crops like bananas and beans. The shade trees are good for the coffee and for the chimpanzees, which, according to Dr. Goodall, hate coffee and leave the trees alone. USAID sponsored training did not stop with best agronomic practices; five coffee washing stations were installed to allow groups within the cooperative to control post-harvest quality through sorting, fermenting, drying, and storage. The Kalinzi coffee is cupped at a specialty coffee laboratory in Kigoma, and the beans are certified as “Good for All” by the JGI, which then helps the farmers with links to specialty coffee roasters and buyers.

With USAID support for enhanced quality, JGI was able to connect Kigoma coffee growers with Green Mountain, (and with Starbucks and Whole Foods as well) in a relationship that increased incomes and gave farmers an incentive to set aside land for chimpanzees. In turn, Green Mountain has been able to reach its corporate commitment to “conduct business in a manner that balances economic goals with environmental and social impacts on local and global communities.” Green Mountain also reports that the share of Fair Trade-certified and organic coffee grew 69 per-cent in FY 2006 — a level that is sure to grow.

USAID’s initial connection with the Kalinzi Cooperative has multiplied and the coop has thrived. In 2007, Sustainable Harvest, a specialty coffee importer that works with coffee farmers worldwide to improve coffee quality and market access, partnered with the Kalinzi Cooperative through its umbrella organization, the 4000 coffee growers of the Kanyovu Coffee Curing and Processing Cooperative. With funding from the Lemelson Foundation, Sustainable Harvest has trained coffee farmers in the Kigoma region to support the cooperative in improving the quality of its coffee production so it could directly export its coffee, earn a fair price, and lessen its environmental impact. Today the Kanyovu Cooperative exports its own coffee directly to buyers without relying on the government or middlemen. The co-op members have taken positive steps to be good stewards of the land, protecting the region’s fresh water and reforesting its bare slopes.

Of course in the specialty coffee market, quality is everything. In his most recent review of Gombe Reserve Coffee, Kenneth Davids editor of the independent journal Coffee Review awarded the brew an outstanding score of 91 (out of 100) enthusiastically noting that this is a coffee of “giddy, honey-toned, floral sweetness as fresh but voluptuous as a tropical morning.”

With support from USAID, and importers like Sustainable Harvest, Green Mountain Coffee and PT’s Coffee Company, coffee quality has improved, farmers are receiving record prices for their coffee crop and a threatened ecosystem is coming back from the brink. All these changes, as well as improvements to the infrastructure available to coffee growers, are adding up to greater sustainability for the coffee farmers’ livelihood.

USAID provided support to the Jane Goodall Institute through its implementing partner the Regional Agriculture and Trade Expansion Support Program (RATES) from 2006 to 2008.


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