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Kilimanjaro Smallholders Revival Project

In our 2023 Tanzania Pre-Harvest Plan, we wrote about what we’d learned from our partners in Mwika North, and the resulting strategy to shift support towards coffee processed at a cooperatives’ Central Processing Units rather than the more traditional, and widely common method of processing coffee at home, then delivering parchment to the cooperative.

In Mwika, we observed cherry collections came in with higher premiums paid to members, predictably higher uniformity, quality and shelf stability as compared to corresponding HP coffee. We found that other investments made more of an impact as well; interventions such as shade cloth go further in a CPU where they can impact all of the community’s coffee in aggregate.

On average, we’ve seen cup scores come in 1-1.5 points higher from CPU versus HP coffee, but more, that CPU coffee has better water activity readings, and less of a tendency to fade. This gets to the root of the drying issues which have come to characterize some of Tanzania’s coffees over the past decade, and gives us more confidence to buy more qualities, which we are expecting them to retain for more time.

With this in mind, we’ve been looking for other Kilimanjaro cooperatives who might be willing to dust-off an old pulper or invest in a new central processing unit. The best new opportunity to present itself came through the Kilimanjaro Smallholder Revival Project (KSRP).

Originally subsidized by a European company and supported by our partners at Taylor Winch, KSRP aimed to reverse a trend that began with the collapse of the strength of the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) following the nationalization and subsequent re-independence of the Union and liberalization of of the coffee industry in the 1990s. Without the support of a strong union, cooperatives collapsed as private exporters worked to secure coffee by buying it directly from cooperative members.

Smallholder coffee from Kilimanjaro—where coffee had grown since 1835—used to account for over half of Tanzania’s Arabica; by 2020 it was less than one-fifth. Old trees, aging farmers, and low premiums contributed to this decline—as did regulations supporting the growth of estates. In response, a European company funded, with the support of the local coffee community, a revitalization effort—the Kilimanjaro Smallholder Revival Project—aimed at engaging the next generation of smallholders on Kilimanjaro, and in doing so, preserving the practices, cultivars and profiles that first made Tanzanian coffee renowned.

The project and its German partners identified 9 AMCOSs to solicit for participation in the project then worked with them to secure organic certification and guaranteed premiums to promote quality and re-engage farmers; provided SL-28 seedlings, which were the cultivar that made coffee from Kilimanjaro famous; and established a youth corps to train the next generation of coffee producers.

We signed up to back cherry premiums for KSRP member groups who had the capacity and interest to collect and process cherries; specifically Marangu West, Lukani Lossa and Mrimbo Uuwo. Most of the volume would come from the six other cooperatives, and overall, come in as HP parchment—and therefore likely below the 85pt quality standard for Crop to Cup purchases. But the broader KRSP network and its backers lined-up a buyer in Europe for the coffee who, at the last minute, backed out—creating an opportunity for Crop to Cup to get involved in the project with the help of Taylor Winch.

For 2023, we were able to separate these coffees, which were collected in full container loads, by AMCOS. We hope, over the next few years, to work with partners to improve qualities and separations coming from their CPUs.


Kilimanjaro Reaches New Heights

We’ve enjoyed working with Mwika North AMCOS for the past four years. Great coffee and great leadership with slow and steady progress on selection, drying, logistics, timing, and financing. It’s been step by step towards a better cup.

Until now.

When we visited in January we saw what was once a parchment collection center convert into a fully functioning Central Processing Unit (CPU). This is a washing station, one that now allows the cooperative to collect cherry from members, pay immediately, and control processing from the moment the harvested cherries arrive through to the perfectly dried parchment.

In June the group voted to take out 40million Tanzania Shilling (~17,400USD) loan to invest in specialty. They installed fencing, poured concrete for washing channels, dug out water reclamation reservoirs, built drying beds (complete with shade netting), established a cherry sorting station, and even had time to put in a shaded nursery.

All of this was completed – along with training- in time to process 3 weeks worth of cherry collection. This served as more test-run and proof of concept that can be scaled up next year. Their efforts also showed up on the table, CPU processed coffees cupped at least a point higher over their best home processed lots (improved sugars, florals, and balance).

Josephine Kawiche, assistant secretary at Mwika North

Momrosso Josephine, pictured above is the CPU manager. She oversaw 3,000kg of parchment through the washing station. It was a short season, so next year she expects 10,000kg+ with a few more drying beds.

While Mwika’s leadership did the heavy leading, and their management did the heavy lifting. Furthermore, this would not have been possible without help from exporter Taylor Winch Tanzania (JJ, left), training from nonprofit Solidad, and 4 years of committed buyer support from Ohio-based roaster Deeper Roots (Adam, right). Chairman Saimon stands proudly at center.






The biggest costs come in the smallest packages. Hooking up to the electric grid saves the group a handful of shillings over using diesel, which over time can accrue into significant savings.

Premiums are paid on coffees processed through this CPU, part of which goes to pay back this four-year loan. Cherry collections only ran for a few weeks as CPU staff was getting going, but better prices are expected to attract more deliveries next season. The plan now is to be prepared for larger volumes.

power source for the CPU

The Mwika North General Assembly meeting is in June. Before that meeting, they will be tiling and painting the station, adding drying capacity, and moving the nursery off-site to a parchment collection center, where they can also build out a demonstration plot.

Additional plans include forming a committee to oversee quality at the CPU and to tap into programs that train ‘youth teams’ to provide general garden services to their neighbors.

In short, they seem motivated and moving in the right direction. Their Home Processed Coffee is coming in this Spring. PSS scored a melon sweet and tangy spicy 85.