International Coffee Partners is strongly engaged in strengthening the position of smallholder coffee farmers in Tanzania. Jimmy Kalonga from Izumbwe Vilagge, Southwest Tanzania, was one of the first to join.
In Mbeya Rural, Igale Ward lives Jimmy Kalonga, a coffee farmer who also a member of the Iwaka Coffee Group. Jimmy is married with 6 children which keeps him very busy. Jimmy started coffee farming in 1987 with just around 300 coffee trees. This gave him very low yields when he started with only about 30-50kg of green coffee. This was most likely due to poor and outdated farming practices. Jimmy’s coffee was consistently attacked by diseases such as Coffee Leaf Rust and CBD but he could not afford any help combating this problem. During this time, coffee wasn’t considered to be very profitable, partly due to the fact that there was only one cooperative which was run by the local government that had a very bureaucratic structure and where the farmers had no say in about their coffee was marketed.
Despite all these hardships, Jimmy decided to forge ahead and expand his farm. He planted around 400 new trees in 1992 and another 120 in 2000 but his yield would still not surpass 120kg of green coffee.
In 2007, after a meeting put on by International Coffee Partners, Jimmy and his fellow farmers decided to form a producer organization called Iwaka Coffee Group. They have participated in marketing training’s and learned about the different marketing channels. Jimmy’s producer organization is part of a bigger structure, a Deport Committee, which collects and sells its members coffee.
Jimmy explains: “In addition to gaining better access to the market through our Coffee Group, I was able to take up an input loan to reinvest into my farm – that would have been impossible as an individual!”
Through the project work, Jimmy could participate in training’s in good agricultural practices such as proper fertilizer and biocide application, pruning and regular field investigation. He is also doing rejuvenation and gap filling on his farm and currently has 692 productive trees, 120 filed gaps and 600 infant trees, which give him 5 times more yield than he used to get before. By improving his farming practices, Jimmy was able to produce 600kg of green coffee. This has made him realize that with a certain amount of training and knowledge, coffee farming can become a successful business and a path out of poverty.