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Communities come together to revive Zimbabwe’s nearly lost coffee industry

After economic strife decimated Zimbabwe’s coffee industry, farmers now have access to information, skills, and markets they didn't have before to revive it once again.

WORDS BY JACK NEIGHBOUR

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

A LAND OF COFFEE

With their cool temperatures, good rainfall, and rich soil, the lush valleys of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands are well suited for growing Arabica coffee. Honde Valley, in the Mutasa district, now has more than 300 active coffee farmers. For the past two years, the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Programme has trained these smallholders in agronomy and processing to help them produce the highest-quality coffee and grow their businesses.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

A COMMITMENT TO COFFEE

Jesca Kangai, 35, lives in Pangeti village in the Mutasa district. She’s been growing coffee for nearly 20 years, over a period that saw many other farmers in the area switch to growing other exports such as bananas due to poor access to the global coffee market. In a time when coffee just didn’t seem a worthwhile endeavour, Jesca persevered, and now the skills, higher yields, and increased income she’s earned have made her passion and resilience all worth it.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

JESCA’S BUSINESS IS GROWING

Jesca and her family decided to try growing coffee in the late 1990s and it’s proven to be a promising undertaking. Jesca’s farm now boasts more than 3,500 coffee trees, the profits from which have allowed her to reinvest additional income in farm animals like goats and chickens and send her son to the best school in the community, something that she sees as a huge personal achievement.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

A MORE ACCESSIBLE INCOME

Jesca carefully tends to her plants. Her dedication to the finer points of practices like irrigation and pruning have led to the improvement of her coffee yield and also her income. Even though there is little-to-no cash circulating in Zimbabwe (most use Bond Notes in lieu of currency), AAA farmers receive payments for their harvest in US dollars. A widely accepted form of payment globally, these well-earned dollars now give farmers like Jesca better access to the products and services that will continue to grow their businesses.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM TRAINING, INCLUDING THE TRAINERS

Here, agronomist Tafadzwa Nyakuchena provides a hands-on lesson in the field. At these demonstration plots, farmers can directly see the benefits of adopting newer cultivation methods. Tafadzwa himself is reaping the rewards of working with the AAA programme. Not only is he enjoying helping farmers progress their lives, planting more than 1000 coffee seedlings to give to those who want to join the growing industry, he’s also building a new home for him and his wife.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

DISCUSSING OVER COFFEE

Reviving Zimbabwe’s coffee industry has pulled farmers together into a more cohesive social group. Those who attend training sessions for their coffee practices also discuss ideas for community development. There’s lots to talk about now, coffee once again becoming a perennial crop has sparked economic growth in the area—including the creation of jobs, as growers use their increased income to hire additional labour for their farms.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

HOPE CONTINUES TO GROW

Zachariah Mukwinya, 38, lives in Chavhanga village and is the focal farmer for his area. He attends meetings with the AAA Sustainable Quality Programme and the Coffee Commodity Association, where he gets advice and shares those updates with his group of farmers. He gets trained, has valuable support from the programme’s agronomists, and enjoys helping his community become better coffee growers. He’s even developed a nursery to supply other farmers with coffee seedlings.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

GOOD NEWS TRAVELS FAST

Zachariah has seen a big change in farmers’ knowledge of agronomy practices since Nespresso launched the AAA Sustainable Quality programme. It’s had such a positive impact on daily life in Honde Valley that the programme has now expanded into the surrounding regions of Chimanimani, Chipinge, and Vumba. Apparently, word of success travels as once the programme started in these areas, agronomists were greeted with “Where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you!” More coffee stories here.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

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