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Burundi 2011

Mapping a Coffee Region

The coffee harvest at the Buhorwa Washing Station in Burundi is unseasonably late this year- the latest it’s been for at least the past 8 years. We hope we’ll be here for at least the first picking, but in the meantime, there is plenty of other work to be done. We have been conducting historical data collection and analysis and creating detailed mapping of the “zone” whose inhabitants and small family farms (about 2,400) contribute coffee to the Buhorwa station. We’re collecting production data from the washing station as well as the headquarters of the Sogestal up in Kayanza. Though we’re only about halfway through, the data is yielding remarkable findings which will help us, the Sogestal, and the farmers, who are most affected by fluctuations in harvest. As we further gather and share this geographical data, we hope it will benefit not only Crop to Cup, but also the Buhorwa station and the local partners- in planning, training, and quality improvement. This is all part of our transparency work.

Mapping the coffee collection area is quite the task- it involves hopping on the back of a motorcycle with a camera, GPS, and notepad, and touring every little road and colline (hill/ridge) of the harvest zone. Each stop takes less than 5 minutes, and involves collection of latitude, longitude and altitude, and noting of landmarks in each direction. Notes and/or corresponding codes are photographed, so that they can be easily tagged to a specific place and the geotag within each photo. There are 19 collines in the Buhorwa zone, so that’s a lot of ridge roads and valleys in between. The ridges – and the highest points for Buhorwa’s coffee- are at an altitude of around 1850-1900m, while the valleys (including the washing station) are around 1750-1800m. Coffee trees cannot grow past roughly 1900m here, so for our purposes 1900m is our “tree line.”

Rain before harvest time

Rains have been heavy in recent weeks, yielding abundant harvests and pushing the coffee cherries further towards ripeness, although many sections of road have eroded or fallen victim to small landslides from above. No tractors around here, so the local councils have hired local residents, who dot the roads with hoes and wheelbarrows. What a backhoe or tractor could fix in 30 minutes takes a day with the tools at hand.

Rain before harvest time

Rains have been heavy in recent weeks, yielding abundant harvests and pushing the coffee cherries further towards ripeness, although many sections of road have eroded or fallen victim to small landslides from above. No tractors around here, so the local councils have hired local residents, who dot the roads with hoes and wheelbarrows. What a backhoe or tractor could fix in 30 minutes takes a day with the tools at hand.