Measuring Responsibility at KiliCafe in Tanzania
This past fall in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, the Association of Kilimanjaro Coffee Growers (KiliCafe) underwent a verification to continue their participation in Starbucks Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices. In 2006 a number of these arabica coffee growers elected to participate in the program, which helps coffee farmers, processors and suppliers transition toward more responsible coffee production, and to provide incentives for demonstrated progress.
The program is comprehensive, calling for just employment strategies, economic accountability and environmentally sustainable agriculture practices, all while maintaining our high bean quality benchmark, and it involves continuous efforts and long-term planning.
As an agronomist for Starbucks in Tanzania (my native country), my role is to help these farmers improve the quality and size of their harvests. As I work on a daily basis helping farmers implement the program, undergo verification and learn from the results, witnessing C.A.F.E Practices verification in action was invaluable.
Unlike programs that award certification only when all the required conditions have been met, C.A.F.E. Practices gives incentives for continuous improvement. Participating producers and processors have the opportunity to review their performance, gain an understanding of areas to improve and seek support in making those changes.
As I visited with farmers at KiliCafe, C.A.F.E Practices improvements were obvious. Farmers had reduced the use of industrial chemical fertilizers on their crops by converting coffee pulp into rich, nutrient laden compost and mulching to prevent moisture loss and suppress weeds. Farmers had also made great strides in reducing waste generated at washing stations.
Perhaps the most striking change was the attitude toward protecting local wildlife. In Tanzania, it’s common to only consider bigger animals to be wildlife, like deer and rabbits. Smaller creatures – like lizards, snakes and birds – are often thought of as nuisances and exterminated.
This protective shift is important in our region, where the wildlife is already facing significant threats – not the least of which is a highly debated proposal to build a road that passes through the middle of the Serengeti National Park, and in so doing, interrupts the path of the greatest annual wildlife migration on Earth. The greater the health of our wildlife populations, the better their chances for survival in the event of such disruptive events.
The biggest challenge that C.A.F.E. Practices faces in Tanzania is reaching as many farmers as possible in order to spread awareness of the program and to encourage implementation. It will be a lot of work, but our efforts will benefit generations to come.