This post is a reflection by Coffee Kids Europe Manager, Malisa Mukanga, after her recent origin trip to Tanzania.

As I reflect on the past year at Coffee Kids, one of my most memorable experiences was a trip to Tanzania to visit our project in Leguruki. I flew into Kilimanjaro International Airport and, though I was not one of the many tourists flying in for a safari, I was secretly hoping that I would manage to get a sneak peek of the famous Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, during my visit. Well, this much I can tell you now… I got more than I bargained for.

I had the opportunity to visit coffee farmers and what struck me was not only that they tended to be on the older side, but also that they were often working alone on their farms, which were few and far between. The farmers told me their neighbors were abandoning growing coffee, which is harvested just once a year, in favor of other crops like maize or vegetables, which can be harvested several times throughout the year. They also shared that their children were looking for quick money in the city and were more enticed to become “Boda-Boda” drivers, transporting people or goods for a small fare with hired motorbikes. These hardworking coffee farmers hoped that their children would continue producing coffee on their land, but the bleak reality was that many instead chose to sell the land and move away, partition it and build homes or uproot the coffee in favor of locally consumed crops. And who could blame them, if growing coffee was not a viable option for young people. Or was it?

In visiting the young coffee farmers who are taking part in our Leguruki Rural Business Workshops, it was clear that there are young people who are proud to be coffee farmers and eager to learn how to do this successfully. It was inspiring to see young men and women who were hungry for tools to improve and expand their farms, as well as to work better together for the good of the community.

 

My experience in Tanzania

 

Nikson, a 24-year-old coffee farmer with half an acre of land, told me that growing coffee is not the problem. Young people could grow coffee but they face challenges, like access to genuine farming inputs, which can typically only be purchased in the nearest big town. In fact, Nikson told me how he had tried to work in a mine to raise the funds he needed to start a farming input supply shop. Unfortunately his business idea failed, but his drive and commitment were undeterred. Now he was taking part in one of our workshops, looking forward to sharing his ideas but also looking forward to the next generation of coffee farmers himself. He told me that our efforts would only be sustainable if he trained his children and his children did the same for their own.

As I left the young coffee farmers in Leguruki, and headed back on a rough terrain road, I had to hold on tight. It was not going to be a quick fix or an easy journey! But by supporting youth like Nikson, I knew this was a worthy investment not only in the future of coffee but also in the well-being of coffee-growing communities.  So as we start the New Year I am grateful for your generous support – and in case you are wondering, I did catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro.