Meet Emil Augustino Mzumbwe from Mbeya, South Tanzania. Like many farmers in his village, Emil grew up in poverty with minimal education. In the ‘80s, he inherited his father’s coffee farm which was one of Emil’s main sources of income when he married his wife Lugano, and they started a family. However, because his father had minimal knowledge about how to manage coffee, the plantation Emil inherited was in very poor condition. It was plagued with pests and diseases and over time, they seemed to multiply because of the increased temperatures brought about by global warming. This, coupled with more frequent droughts, became extremely troublesome for Emil. To his dismay, his aged and neglected coffee trees yielded minimal amounts of coffee cherries which kept him and Lugano in a perpetual struggle to meet their basic needs and raise enough school fees for their six children. Eventually, they decided to uproot some of their coffee to use the land to grow maize even though it presented significantly lower prices. This abandonment of coffee plantations for more seasonal crops was a common practice among the farmers in Emil’s village for one main reason – they lacked access to information on improved coffee management.

Fortunately, this gap was filled in 2006 when International Coffee Partners (ICP) began implementing projects in Tanzania. Since then, the ICP shareholders which are Delta Cafés (Portugal), Franck (Croatia), Joh. Johannson (Norway), Lavazza (Italy), Löfbergs (Sweden), Neumann Gruppe (Germany), Paulig (Finland) and Tchibo (Germany) have driven several joint projects in phases, across the Northern and Southern regions of the country. These initiatives which have been implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) endeavoured to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farming families by providing them with information on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and climate-smart practices while strengthening existing farmer organizations. Such interventions, in addition to gender equality advocacy and youth empowerment have created lasting change for more than 25,000 farming families in Tanzania and almost 100,000 farming families worldwide.

The early days of ICP’s farmer trainings in Tanzania (2013)

The early days of ICP’s farmer trainings in Tanzania (2013)

The turning point for Emil was when he joined one of ICP’s initiatives in 2013. In the project, Emil and fellow farmers in his village were educated by dedicated agronomists in a participatory manner on demonstration plots. They were also empowered to be trainers themselves so they could spread the information further. This prompted Emil and Lugano to revive their forgotten coffee farm by stumping and pruning 5 acres of their old trees. They also planted an additional 4 acres of improved coffee varieties to maximize their yields and income. Through application of mulch and rainwater harvesting trenches, the couple were able to control pests and diseases and prevent wilting in the dry seasons. Additionally, they intercropped their coffee with bananas as shade-trees and beans as cover crops which contributed to an improved diet and better nutrition for the family.

Emil and one of HRNS’ Agronomists in his coffee farm

Emil’s expanded coffee farm of improved coffee varieties

Over time, the applied GAPS reaped great results for Emil and Lugano. When Emil first joined the project, he only managed to harvest 1.5 tonnes of coffee per season. But after attending the trainings on GAPs, he encouraged Lugano to also join and together they applied what they learned in their farm. As a result, their harvests have gradually increased over time and in the 2020/2021 season, they harvested 5.5 tonnes. Their proceeds have also multiplied; in 2013 their annual income was 7,500,000 TSH (2,128 USD), but last year (2020), their annual income was TSH 22,000,000/= (9,486 USD).

“As an agronomist, it’s always a pleasure to see how my work transforms the lives of coffee farming households, especially seeing women getting involved in production activities.” – Mwajuma Hamisi, HRNS Agronomist/farmer trainer

Lugano (left) and Mwajuma Hamisi an HRNS Agronomist/farmer trainer

More revenue has enabled Emil and Lugano to go beyond meeting their family’s basic needs. They renovated their house which had deteriorated over time since it was also inherited from Emil’s parents. Thereafter Emil and Lugano expanded their farming businesses with piggery and beekeeping. But what Emil and his wife are most proud of is the fact that they have been able to educate their six children. Their last-born son (24) is in his final year of university and his degree was paid for using the family’s farm proceeds. Educating his children to the level of university means so much to Emil because he did not have the opportunity to go beyond primary school and wanted his children to have more education and opportunities than he did.

Some of the family’s pigs

One of Emil and Lugano’s beehives which provides income from honey – an expensive product

Emil and Lugano’s farm businesses and economic situation were not the only aspects that transformed. The gender trainings that ICP offered have improved the unity in their household. After they attended ICP’s interactive couple seminars, they began making decisions about how to spend their proceeds from their farming businesses together. They also jointly created a household-vision for their continued family development. After seeing the benefits of working together, they volunteered to be ‘Change Agents’ and spread the word to other couples in their community.

“Working together as a family has really transformed our life. The whole community is now looking to us as role models and we are proud to share with them the keys to our success.”– Emil Augustino Mzumbwe

Emil and his family are not alone in their success. Through ICP, about 30 farmers in Emil’s farmer organization called Kahawa ni Mali Producer Organization, received entrepreneurship and organizational development trainings. These have helped them enhance their farming businesses and their farmer organization’s operations and governance. Collectively, the members were also supported to start a saving scheme so they can access loans to invest in farm inputs and tools such as irrigation equipment. Through their savings, they also raised enough funds to buy a central processing unit to increase the quality of their coffee and reduce post-harvest costs for the organization’s members. As a result, last year, they secured a buyer for their coffee to start direct market exports.

The central processing machine bought by Kahawa ni Mali Producer Organization

Since 2006, ICP has worked with 730 farmer organizations and 94 cooperatives in Tanzania to upgrade their operations and achieve similar progress. The current ICP project phase in Mbeya and Songwe aims at empowering 4,000 smallholder families to increase their resilience to climate change. It also targets 390 youth and empowers them with invaluable knowledge so they too can take up farming as a lucrative livelihood activity. Mindsets are already being transformed and in Emil’s village, a farmer organization purely for young people has been formed and is attracting more youth into coffee farming.

Quantifying the impact of the ICP project’s interventions statistically does not truly represent the effect it has had on the lives of about 100,000 farming families over the past two decades. After 20 years of impactful project work across 13 countries, what is clear is that the impact is exponential when there is collaboration. This goes beyond the partnership between the eight family-owned coffee companies that form ICP. All interventions should involve all stakeholders at all levels of the coffee value chain – including the smallholders that benefit, and the consumers that delight in the final product. Emil says it best:

“This matter is a chain. We [coffee farmers] cannot get anything because we depend on those who drink coffee. But they also depend on us. So, there is need to help each other.”

After 20 years of impact, the ICP partners look forward to more partnerships, more interventions, and serving more farming families, in more years to come!

Watch the video below to hear directly from Emil, how ICP has impacted his family and community. 

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