COFFEE production in Tanzania has been a significant aspect of the economy but farmers became baffled by some constraints in its productivity, some of which are, continued cultivation of old varieties that are low yielding and highly susceptible to major coffee diseases.
Tanzania saw, gradually, a crop that was once its foreign currency earner abandoned by farmers and in this case, Kilimanjaro growers had become tired of diseases such as Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR), Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), high costs of production as they would need a lot of resources to fight the diseases.
Automatically they got poor quality and quantity coffee beans. Things have since changed, with research findings being put in use, Kilimanjaro farmers are counting gains –up to 7,500/- per kilogram; this comes just two years since changing from old ways to modern ones, and use of modern hybrid varieties that are disease-resistant, with higher yield in quality and quantity coupled with low costs of production.
Augustino Kishumbua grows compact hybrid and tall hybrid coffee varieties. Mr Kishumbua (85) inherited coffee two coffee farms, one measures 10 acres and the other five acres, both situated at Mkomongo village, Kibosho West ward, Kibosho division in Moshi Rural District.
The retired teacher says that after retirement in 1988 he was back at his native village and opted to carry on agricultural activities, but challenges he kept facing were so huge that he incurred a lot of costs in fighting CLR and CBD.
In the early 2000, he says, he went to Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI), after he had consultations with another farmer, Mr Edwin Mtei. He got 1,200 seedlings to start with, hence replacing of the old coffee trees with the modern varieties, to wit, Compact Hybrid and Tall Hybrid that are seeing him off with good money, low cost of production, high yield in quality and quantity hence fetch good price.
Mr Kishumbua says he was convinced by TaCRI experts that he would be successful in coffee production revival. They have been holding coffee field classes, bringing together other growers to sharpen their skills on best practices in farming methods.
He is also happy that some extension officers from Moshi District Council call at their farms to offer expert advice. In 2010 he got further 400 compact seedlings from TCRI and it was the beginning of an end to old coffee tree varieties on the two fields.
“We are doing fine and making good money because the varieties are disease-resistant, grow fast and in a stint of two years we already have first fruits in compact hybrids.
The compact hybrid is short but with branches bearing beans at shorter intervals while the tall highbred variety goes high, bearing many beans as well. “This is quite opposite to what we used to get in the past.
As you see my age, I have vast experience in coffee. We now get seedlings at a much-subsidized price of 150/- per seedling. Before use of the new varieties we could get 10 sacks (50 kilogram each) per acre.
You get that after a really hard work, with sweat and blood but now with TaCRI technology we get more than 20 sacks per acre, with light labour. We only have to be careful, inspect the farm and in form the experts when there are problems of insects such as white stem borer,” says Mr Kishumbua, adding that one tree could yield from two kilograms of dry coffee.
The senior citizen who likes driving his car, works along his wife, Ms Theresia Kishumbua and says their children are committed to supporting development of coffee fields; without interfering by construction of houses or asking for plots to be divided for them as per the Chagga culture.
He says people do not succeed in coffee production because they either remain with the old varieties or do not adhere to expert advice offered in regard to placement of seedlings and use of inputs.
He advises all who abandoned coffee growing to be back, but also calls upon others to get land and invest in coffee production. He is about to procure and install a modern Coffee Pulping Unit (CPU) so that they get even finer final products with better aroma and all things that bring huge demand and better prices.
He is absolutely against those who say coffee growing does not pay. “Who says coffee does not pay? We get a lot here; if one tree can get you from two kilograms of dried coffee per season what do you think? At KNCU (Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union) we get up to 4,000/- per kilogram.
That is good money. The problem some do it as just business as usual. The youth opt to other business. I wish regional and district authorities as well as religious leaders counsel people to come back to this business,” says Mzee Kishumbua.
Mr Didas Mallya is a farmer at Manushi North village, Kibosho West ward says after getting technical advice from TaCRI officials he found that coffee agribusiness pays.
He would not have engaged in the business with the old coffee trees that had existed for many years, leading his parents to uproot them all over the field and opted for other crops.
TaCRI keeps tab on him, offers advice to ensure quality production. He revived coffee growing in 2010 at a field that measures six acres, planting compact coffee hybrid varieties that have since proved to be efficacious.
The 2012 Northern Zone winner in coffee growers competition and first winner in Kilimanjaro region in 2015 in the same competitions overseen by the Tanzania Government says they have formed a cooperative group–Kiwakaboma– of 50 farmers, producing clean and quality coffee and are permitted by Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) to sell their products directly at coffee auction overseen by the board.
So far he has 3,200 compact coffee trees and on average one tree produces up to five kilograms per season. Coffee proceeds have enabled him build a modern house and cater for children’ school fees at English medium schools as well as other daily use.
Another successful coffee grower is Mr Godfrey Mmasy from Kibosho West ward who says he was lured to engage in coffee production by TaCRI officials, abandoning his job at Arusha lodges and now says he is happy with production at his 4.5 coffee fields.
He buys organic fertilizer he uses during planting and industrial fertilizer at least thrice a year. Mr Mmasy (44) says he returned to village after passing on of his dad and his mom being in advanced age.
He is happy to see advice given by TaCRI extension officers works and is going on uprooting the old varieties, replacing them with compact and tall hybrid varieties. He says prospect of revival of coffee industry is big, only if people could be persuaded to be serious in the business.
“I am happy that the industry pays. We normally sell during end of the year, its proceeds support in paying school fees and for other family needs. Those who retreated from coffee production should feel comfortable to come back because coffee price is no longer low, no need of much farm inputs, no more diseases or high costs of production,” says Mr Mmasy.