Manicaland refers to the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe and is an area that is also known for producing high quality Arabica coffee that grows well at high altitudes in a cool climate. This legacy has in recent decades been affected by under capitalisation of the coffee subsector leaving farmers with few options on how to process their harvested coffee bean. Additionally, this has restricted their ability to purchase necessary inputs to enable them to successfully grow their coffee commercially.
Most coffee farmers process their harvested coffee cherry beans by wet coffee processing method using a coffee pulping machine. Sadly, the pulping machines are not affordable for the average coffee farmer. Fortunately, under the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme’s (LFSP) Markets Development Component, Zimbabwe Coffee Mill is working with farmers in Mutasa and Mutare districts to help improve their post-harvest processing of Arabica coffee by availing them access to the much needed pulping machines. Zimbabwe Coffee Mill is also training them to use the pulping machines and is linking them to markets overseas. In further helping improve the coffee value chain, Zimbabwe Coffee Mill is promoting an inputs finance scheme for the farmers from which they would borrow money to buy coffee fertilizers and chemicals.
As of December 2015, a total of 31.7 Metric Tonnes of pulped coffee was delivered by farmers to Zimbabwe Coffee Mill and to date 16.5 Metric Tonnes has been graded and are ready for marketing. The pulp machines financed under the project haven’t been installed as yet. However, in preparation for the installations, Zimbabwe Coffee Mill has been spearheading training programmes over the past few months that have benefited many coffee farmers. To mark this achievement recently, a field day was held at one of the most successful smallholder farmer, which attracted a variety of stakeholders who developed consensus with farmers on improved grades and created awareness of the value of pulpers to farmers. Prices have also improved to about $4.00/kg for best quality coffees, from much lower figures.
For the Simango’s in Mutare, growing coffee has always been their passion and the project has created further awareness of value addition to their produce by processing it using pulpers. They are part of the beneficiaries of Zimbabwe Coffee Mill’s training. As ambitious farmers who recently received recognition of their efforts as model farmers, they are keen to harness all the useful knowledge they can gain from development initiatives such as the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP).
Going forward, Zimbabwe Coffee Mill has earmarked to reach 800 coffee farmers to benefit from training in primary processing and quality standards. From these 600 will be linked to input finance. Zimbabwe Coffee Mill is in the process of acquiring pulping machines for up to 250 farmers to rekindle at scale the coffee bean post-harvest processing standards in Mutasa and Mutare.
The access to pulping machines and input finance would clearly make most of the difference in improving the quality and value of the green bean! The future of coffee farming in Manicaland now has a rekindled hope, thanks to UK funding under the LFSP.