About the Producers
Kimuli Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Kimuli AMCOS) first began producing great coffee back in 1993. For over 25 years the coop society has continued to grow; today working and supporting its 640 members within nine villages, all located in the surrounding region of Ruvuma.
Just outside of Ruvuma, rising from the north of Lake Malawi, sits the 3000 meter high Livingstone Mountain Range: the inspiration behind the name of this blend. Formally known as The Kiengere Mountains, the range takes its alternative name from the Scottish explorer, Dr David Livingstone. After initially hoping to travel to China as a Missionary in 1839, Livingstone’s plans were disrupted by the break out of the first opium war, prompting Livingstone to turn his sights to Africa. Here, the Scottish explorer became famed for his work as a pioneering Christian missionary; as well as for being the first European to discover Victoria Falls.
Kimuli AMCOS is known within the region for being well-organised, as well as for its strong focus on quality. Kimuli have invested greatly to improve their central processing sites (CPU’s), with the goal of producing uniform coffee with a great cup profile. Kimuli has three CPU’s, these are: Mahande, Kitanda & Utiri. These washing stations are centrally positioned; each serving a portion of the 9 villages in the coop society: Mahande, Utiri, Kitanda, Mtama, Lusaka, Iringa, Mangwangwala, Masimeri and Lupilo. The majority of farms are very small and individual farmers grow coffee on plots of land just 5 hectares or smaller in size.
In addition to coffee, many of these farmers grow maize, wheat and sorghum; amongst other cash crops. As well as providing a second source of income, produce such as maize provides useful by-products like mulch for the coffee trees; locking in moisture on the high sloped contour farms. Similarly, the primary fertiliser for many farms in the region is manure, mixed with small amounts of NPK (known as Yara Java). Pruning is primarily conducted after the harvest season, to remove weak or unhealthy branches. When a coffee tree is no longer producing its desired quota, the tree will be cut right back and stumped; focusing on one side to allow new shoots to grow from the other. Primary varieties include Bourbon, Kent & N39, with coffee seedlings and seeds distributed and recommended by TaCRI (Tanzania Coffee Research institute).
Coffee cherries are selectively handpicked by the family at each farm, before heading to the nearest CPU. Cherry is delivered by all means of transport; be it motorcycle, bicycle, or carried on farmers heads. Once delivered to the CPU, cherry is separated out by the date of harvest. This allows for traceability to be conducted for every lot down to the bag. As well as cherry, ‘home processed’ coffee is also delivered to the CPU’s. Home processed coffee is pre-washed and pulped so it can be delivered in parchment form.
For cherry deliveries, the process begins by separating out any under/ over ripe cherry, along with any foreign matter such as sticks or gravel. Next, the coffee is pulped to remove the outer layer of fruit. Typically, the cherries are picked, sorted and pulped all in the same day; with processing conducted between 4pm and 8pm. Next, the coffee is placed into fermentation tanks to remove the remaining mucilage. Here the beans will remain for up to 40 hours, depending on the atmospheric temperature. Once fermentation is complete, beans are washed in cool clean water, often acquired from natural sources such as bore holes or rivers.
Finally, the beans are taken to raised beds to be dried. Beans are spread across the raised beds and turned regularly for an even dry. The tables are covered at high sun (noon) so that the beans are not scorched, as well as when it rains to prevent re-wetting. During the night, the coffee is covered with polythene to prevent the buildup of dew. The process of drying will typically take anywhere between 10 to 14 days; with beans only removed once the moisture content has reached 11.5% or lower.
One of the primary challenges facing the group is the high cost of inputs needed to farm the land, making the cost of production expensive. Combined with the low market price for coffee, coffee farming in the region is becoming unprofitable. Because of this, Kimuli AMCOS has started offering services to support its members, such as micro financing. Society members can receive access to cheap loans from the group, to help cover the high input costs, until they receive pay for their crop. Kimuli are planning to expand their service by including training as well as other support projects, such as housing, building schools and providing education. Besides the difficulties relating to the cost of farming, the association is also facing a new battle; brought on by climate change. With inadequate rains and longer dry days, reducing yield is now exacerbating existing challenges facing the Kimilui AMCOS and wider community.