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Sh*t's Getting Real in Burundi

October 23, 2018
Category: in Burundi

Sh*t's Getting Real in Burundi

10/19/18 Update

Poop production begins soon! Farmers in Crop to Cup’s second longest standing relationship (since 2010) have inched closer to a legally recognized cooperative and are well underway in their comprehensive community initiative, called Projet Vache.   The goal of the program is quite simple: increase incomes by improving farm productivity and quality and provide alternative sources of income How to achieve the goal is much more intricate, including work both on and off the farm.

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Healthier soils and trees are on their way through 2 new seedling nurseries across the Buhorwa-Gatare smallholder catch basin, and 2 compost production facilities utilizing livestock, coffee cherry and other materials. In addition, dairy – and, later, the sale of livestock offspring – will provide alternative income outside of the seasonal and highly volatile coffee market. All the above is tied together using a comprehensive training program and ensuring that farms are well organized to manage the project and manage their farms and products for quality.

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The project is funded by Crop to Cup and several roasters who have been buying coffee from this community over the years, including Dispatch Coffee (Montreal, QC), Bindle Coffee (Fort Collins, CO) and Philly Fair Trader Roasters (Philadelphia, PA). Our partners in Burundi are Sogestal Kayanza (the exporter operating the washing stations from which we buy) and the agriculture and coffee experts at ABS (Agri Business Services) Bujumbura.  

Here’s a little update on where we’re at.

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In early 2018 the group was busy developing training materials in Kirundi and French on farmer organization and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Training at 3 sites around the Buhowa and Gatare Washing Stations (Kayanza Province, near and to the north east of Bukeye) took place between March and May of this year, during which groups were formed, leaders elected, and sites planned out. After a pause for farmers to tend to their harvest/production (new crop arrives in the US next month!) we restarted training last month with the development of modules in animal husbandry and composting, and an implementation calendar for Sept-December in advance of next year’s harvest.

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Trainings took place last week with 50 farmers at Buhorwa and 30 at Gatare. Content included livestock management, compost management and follow-up on cooperative structure implementation. We were lucky enough for Sogestal Kayanza to bring in a local veterinarian and ABS to bring in a new trainer who is highly seasoned in development and management of cooperatives.

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The calendar for the next few months includes workshops and installations (cow stables, compost collection areas, etc), set for Oct 25, Nov 8, Nov 22, Dec 6 and Dec 20 in Buhorwa, and Oct 31, Nov 15, Nov 29, Dec 13 and Dec 27 in Gatare.

A full program for regular veterinarian services, livestock supplies, feed and care are key to keeping the project (and the cows!) alive. We mapped this out back in 2017, but the next few weeks are go-time for the shopping list and getting the vets on speed dial.

Livestock will be in place in stables by the end of November, although farmers in Gatare are currently at disagreement over their preferred animals for compost production and income. Cows were a no-brainer for the Buhorwa community (no surprise since nearby Bukeye is a dairy powerhouse for the region), but farmers in Gatare had initially been set on goats, then provisionally settled on cows. Gatare recently threw a curveball with the pig campaigners starting to gain ground. It’s a tight race and polls are unreliable, so we’ll wait and see how this rare democratic process for Burundi takes hold.

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Although the GAP training should already be evident in the 2018 harvest lots landing here in NY in a few weeks, next year (including both our trip and the harvest) is what we’re really pumped about. The 2019 harvest is when we should begin seeing big changes in farms as new trees from the project’s two seedling nurseries take root, and off-season farm maintenance and the first volumes of compost breed new life into the soils and trees.

Crop to Cup and a team of roasters will visit Burundi (after a quick stop in Rwanda) in the Spring of 2019. Please let us know if you’d like to join the trip or support the project. We are still accepting contributions to scale the project and for monitoring and evaluation, so if this coffee or this community are interesting to you then please consider joining us. Trip dates (sometime in April/May) to follow in a few months.

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To try coffee from this community please email your Crop to Cup rep and ask to receive samples once the container lands in November 2018. We can’t wait to share these lots with you!

What's most important is this - when you find a coffee you care about, ask your importer how you can support the communities that grow your lots. A little bit can go a long way, plus, coffee only gets richer with each connection you make. 

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