A total of 1,600 farmers are involved in planting 400 hectares of organic coffee in Chimanimani, in Mozambique, as part of an agriforestry project that is the largest coffee plantation in the country.
The Agrotur project started in 2020 with the planting of 100 Arabica coffee seedlings in an experimental field in the buffer zone of the Chimanimani National Park, which yielded its first harvest last year of around 550 kilos of coffee, forestry engineer António Tomo told Lusa.
In 2020, the company had introduced five varieties of seeds imported from Brazil and Zimbabwe, which allowed the production of 1.2 million coffee seedlings, which have been distributed to producers since the end of 2021 for the planting of the 400 hectares, and which is expected to be completed in April.
“We hope in ten years to reach the peak of Chimanimani coffee production,” with said Tomo, explaining that the target was for 3,000 farmers producing on 3,500 hectares, 500 of which are company land. “Even so, this year we will be the company with the largest area of planted coffee in Mozambique.”
In addition to producing organic coffee in an agriforestry system – which includes reforestation of degraded and deforested areas of the reserve to safeguard the soil, flora and fauna – the company wants to generate significant income.
With other income-generating products, Tomo pointed out, peasants were able to buy zinc sheets for to roof their houses, bicycles and flip-flops, to stop going barefoot. But the change is likely to be more visible with “better production” of crops such as coffee.
Daniel Machire, a farmer from Tsetsera, grew up watching his parents producing coffee in the ‘farmas’ (farms) of Zimbabwe, and today, with a little schooling, he understands that his parents’ efforts were never going to be profitable. He now aims to improve his family’s standard of living with his first two hectares of coffee, planted around the corner from the old colonial plantations.
“We saw the efforts that the farmers were making and noticed that, in fact, that makes money, so we thought of being big coffee producers ourselves,” Machire tells Lusa, excited about the first harvest to be made this year.
Another farmer, José Sabonete, 53, worked in the coffee fields in Zimbabwe with landowners who were expelled from that country during the 2004 land reform and now uses the knowledge he built up there to dive into coffee production.
“I learnt there [in Zimbabwe], the whole cycle of production, from planting to processing for the market,” he said, speaking in the Shona language that spans both countries. “Now I am using my knowledge to produce individually and I will market locally through this company [Agrotur] that is fostering coffee.”
Sabonete bought the coffee seedlings on his own initiative in Zimbabwe, but since last year he has been supplied with seedlings by Agrotur to plant in two more fields opened for coffee production.
Thaona Mudjariua, 38, a farmer from Tsetsera, is replanting his cattle pasture, which has been abandoned because of climate change, with coffee plantations and is excited at the prospect of earning money and putting his two children through university.
“When this company came in to produce coffee, aggregating the family sector, we were pleased, because we knew we could have earnings, which will help put our children in education, even university,” he tells Lusa, noting that the area where they live had been lagging behind due to the lack of projects to boost agriculture.
Coffee “is a high-yield product,” Judite Mugare, a 43-year-old peasant who aims to pay for schooling for her children, have a house and feed herself better, tells Lusa. “I will have money with each harvest and it is a long-lasting crop.”
Mugare, who made the first planting in 2020, expects her first harvest this year with 200 kilos of coffee.
Initially, the production – which will have manual harvesting and sun drying – will be channelled to export the dry bean to large roasters, but there are plans, within two years, to set up a factory in Tsetsera so as to prepare the bean for export and later fully process the coffee on site.
In terms of production, the company, which employs 15 staff (and 20 seasonal workers in the planting phase), expects to increase output from five tonnes this year to almost two thousand tonnes in the 10th year of implementation.
The company’s accounts are also ambitious: plans call for revenues to rise from around $300,000 (€264,000) to $42 million in 10 years.
Original story on Club of Mozambque