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This is Altaye: Plant Doctor Extraordinaire!

Altaye is another one of our promising young collaborators from Jimma University. Because all four students travelling with us through Kaffa have names that begin with the letter ‘A’, we simply referred to them as our  ‘4 A’s’.

Back to Altaye. As a plant pathologic, he was the only real doctor on our recent field trip through Kaffa. He knows literarily everything about coffee berry disease (cbd, yes it’s a real disease) and other biological diseases that effect coffee harvests.

During our visit the farmers readily approached Altaye to discuss both cholera and cbd, both by far the most serious issues facing Ethiopian farmers. Because Altaye knows the steps the farmers need to take to prevent these diseases, he was a very popular fellow on our trip. Preventing these diseases increases farmer’s yield and thus their income.

Altaye eagerly wants to be part of our FairChain revolution. And quite honestly, we are happy to have him there. His contribution to farmers is invaluable in helping them get rid of their biggest headache: cbd.

 

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The world according to Inka: How Ethiopian Smallholders can immediately improve their yields (and finances)

A crucial member of our troupe during our early December road trip through the Kaffa highlands was Inka. Inka is an internationally engaged soil expert who spends much of her life helping farmers adopt “climate smart” methods. We were more than happy to have her on board of our Land Rover, because with her on the team we could truly provide our FairChain smallholders valuable information to help them improve their yields. Not just long term best practices, but also immediate impact that leads (again immediately) to move money for them.

On the trip she inspected our smallholders’ soil, vegetation and agriculture practices. Following closely in her footsteps were, of course, our ‘4 A’s from Jimma University (read their stories on this blog), eager to learn from her. Inka was also the one who came up with the brilliant idea to organize group sessions involving some 30 locals in order to reach even more farmers. No sooner said than done – farmers could lay hand on correct pruning of coffee trees and discuss the best composting methods:

composting training session
Farmers learning about composting
Now that's pruning
Now that’s pruning!

Inka spent the few weeks following our trip organizing her findings into concrete recommendations for, specifically, the smallholders working the land around the Tega&Tula farm near Bonga Town. These farmers are amongst our most ambitious FairChain farmers. Rather than edit her assessment down, we thought we’d share them with you, dear coffee drinkers, without sweetening them up. So without further ado, here are Inka’s most important takeouts. Enjoy the read, very interesting!

  • All the smallholders are eager to learn and improve.
  • Their coffee trees are not well managed, with trees planted way too close to each other.
  • There is no sign of rejuvenation: the majority of the trees exceed 3 meters, a height that makes them difficult to harvest. Many of the trees, in fact, were very old, many upwards of 60 years old.
  • The shade cover of many trees was too much. Often, they used the wrong type of trees for shade – trees with large leaves rather than with feathery leaves, which let through more sunlight.
  • Coffee tree disease is rampant – the main culprits were coffee berry disease, coffee wilt, coffee rust, white spot, leaf roller, leaf miner and dieback.
  • The majority of farmers do not use fertilizer but natural mulch made from weeds and branches combined with composted manure – and sometimes nothing at all.
  • The major nutrient deficiencies in the plants are Nitrogen and Phosphorus, but there are others as well.
  • The farm soils were predominantly moist, coarse with sandy loam, well structured with good drainage and water holding capacity, which is good.
  • The trees stood stable and their roots were looking goood – there is no apparent problem with harmful soil nematodes, or roundworms, which are detrimental to coffee plants.
  • Due to good mulch or plant coverage, there are no erosion issues, either.
  • The majority of farmers do not use fertilizer but natural mulch made from weeds and branches combined with composted manure.
  • The soil seems fertile enough to continue to support coffee plants, but with the improved cultivation and management techniques soil fertility will become a high priority.
  • The main agronomical challenges named by the farmers are weeds and disease. They also named labor shortage as a major issue due to that farms have to compete for harvest workers. The Tega&Tula farm, for example, pays twice as much per kilogram for cherries than other farms in the area.
  • They need training on how to better select the type of shade trees they use: feathery banana leaves that let sun through better than large opaque leaves, for example.

According to Inka, these are the most pressing needs for our farmers:

  • They need to improve their skills in disease prevention and management.
  • They need training on how to better select the type of shade trees they use: feathery leaves that let sun through better than large opaque leaves, for example.
  • They must improve their ground compost preparation methods. So far they make compost in pits, which creates a lot of unnecessary work and make aeration of the compost difficult. Great if they can use cherry pulp or the water from coffee washing, as it’s full of the best nutrients for coffee.
  • General improvements in how they handle their harvest and post-harvest
  • Focus on practice field training that can eventually be accompanied by written and/or images that guide them
  • For increased harvest hygiene and affordability, they can construct drying tables out of renewable materials like bamboo.

Thanks Inka, you’re awesome. Now let’s get to work making this happen!

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A quick glance at super student Amanuel

Amanuel is one of our ‘4 A’s’ on this field trip: promising students helping us reach out to more and more smallholder farmers. Amanuel currently sits atop of his class at Jimma University and is on course to graduate with honours with in 2017.

Amanuel currently lives with his wife and child in Jimma, close to the university. Born and raised in Bonga, his primary language is Kaffigna, the local dialect used in the Kaffa region. Amongst his many talents is networking: he knows a lot of people in the Ethiopian coffee scene.

While just 30 years old, Amanual has years of experience training farmers on how to increase their crop yields and better process their coffee after harvesting. On our recent trip with him, Amanuel co-hosted a training session with some 30 farmers. Speaking Kaffigna, we couldn’t understand precisely what he was saying. But we do know the farmers were listening, and that’s the whole point.

Amanuel and Inka
Amanuel and Inka showing farmers how to get more out of their soil.
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Moyee Impact Report 2016: Life's Unfair

Three years after introducing FairChain coffee to the world, we published our first annual ‘impact’ report. Provocatively titled Life is Unfair, the report doesn’t just recount our victories, but relishes our failures, too!  “Had we been a little bit less idealistic and naïve about challenging the coffee industry’s unfair ways, there would be no FairChain coffee today,” founder Guido van Staveren candidly reports.

Unlike most annual reports, Moyee’s Life is Unfair combines financial facts and future roadmaps with very short stories, playful imagery and uncompromised self-reflection.

READ

Want to get your hands on one? Read it online or order your PDF or hardcopy here.

“We have achieved a lot in a short amount of time, so much so that investors are lining up to help take FairChain global,” adds Van Staveren. “But quite honestly, we truly hoped FairChain would be more of a household word – and in more Dutch households – than we are today.”

While the report is full of battles with Ethiopian coffee policy, European trade blocks and local transparency, Life is Unfair is also a celebration of our major victories in 2015. Last year we officially opened what is arguably the highest tech roaster in Africa and became the first coffee company in Ethiopia to earn its ISO certification. In Amsterdam, we continue to make inroads in cafes and supermarkets. We even joined forces with e-transport company BubblePost for green urban coffee delivery.

We’ll talk more about our report in the coming weeks and months, because there is a lot to talk about. But if you have any questions contact mark@moyeecoffee.com.

 

 

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Mark's Field Trip: A Photographic Journey

Mark, Kauw, our Chief Impact Officer, recently toured a handful of our FairChain smallholders high up in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia. Many of his posts already populate these pages. He could write a book about his week, but instead we offer here a photographic overview of his journey at the peak of the new coffee harvest.

Kids at Tega & Tula farm gate
Entrance to the Tega & Tula farm

 

Now that's a well kept dwelling
A worker’s house at Tega & Tula

 

Spot the monkeys!
Spot the monkeys!

 

Schoolkids at Tega village
Schoolkids at Tega village

 

Zewdie sits down with Mark amidst his forest coffee
Farmer Zewdie takes a break

 

Organic in all steps of the chain
Love the smell of sun-dried organic coffee in the morning

 

New kid on the block in T&T staff housing
There’s a new kid on the block at Tega & Tula’s staff housing

 

Happy barista in Jimma city
One happy barista in the city of Jimma

 

Something to read for farm worker Mikael
Farm worker Mikael brushing up on some reading

 

Ripe red cherry
A foreset full of ripe red cherries
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Moyee x Jimma University = progress

 As Mark travels to Moyee’s various Ethiopian smallholders, he continues to pick up a few friends along the way. On his most recent trip he brought four talented students from Jimma University’s agriculture department. Their names? Amanuel, Altaye, Abayneh and Abraham. Or, as Mark calls them, ‘Quadruple A Quality’.

“All the farmers are pointing out the same problem: disease,” says Abraham, a plant pathologist. “They spend a lot of time preventing coffee plant diseases like cholera, which severely damages the plant and a reduces the quality of the cherry.”

We teamed up Abraham with our soil expert Inka, and the two of them having been happily making the rounds together.

“I feel like I can make an immediate contribution to Moyee’s farmer program,” Abraham says. “But I’ll be honest, this is valuable practical experience far beyond the university walls. This is great.”

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Looking for quick wins on Bogale's farm

A few weeks back we visited Bogale, one of our smallholders and a prominent figure in his local community. This week we paid him another visit. The purpose of our trip was to sit down with him and find out more about what he and his community of smallholders desire and need most.
We equals me (Mark), Ephrem (Moyee’s Supply Chain Manager) and Inka, our agrarian specialist. Inka was particularly interested in meeting Bogale. This is because Inka is a soil expert and she is here to assess the quality of the soil on Bogale’s farm. She’s pretty certain we can up the long-term productivity of Bogale’s farm, but she’s also curious if there are some quick wins for now. Like most Ethiopian smallholders, every little extra is a bonus.
Next week Inka will reveal to us — and we to you — what she found.
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Bihonegn Buys Himself a WakaWaka

 This is Mr. Bihonegn Adelaw, a 55-year smallholder on an incredibly beautiful farm near the Tega & Telu plantation in the Ethiopian highlands. A proud father of six, Bihonegn is very pleased with this year’s harvest, which is up on last year. His profits are up as well, in part because he sells a portion of his crop to Moyee. The current primary market price for a kilogram offers coffee cherries is is 10 Ethiopian birr (€0,42). But with Moyee’s FairChain Premium, Bihonegn receives 12 birr (€0,51) per kilo.

We visit Bihonegn on a bright sunny day with our translator Gashaw. Bihonegn greets us with his daughter, and his attention is immediately drawn to Gashaw’s WakaWaka solar powered light. Bihonegn is fascinated by the WakaWaka and wants one for himself.

“Right now I go through 3 penlights a week to keep my house lit at night,” he says. He does the calculation and says. “That costs me 350 birr (€14,90) a year.”

Bihonegn wants to buy Gashaw’s WakaWaka on the spot. The two of them enter a long drawn-out negotiation for the device, ending with Bihonegn lifting his hands and saying he trusts us to give him a good price.

Gashaw eventually sells him the WakaWaka for 300 birr (€12,70), which is a low price because, Gashaw adds, it is a test model. We promise Bihonegn and his daughter that we’ll come back later in the season to see how his WakaWaka is working out for him.

It’s little moments like this – improving the quality of life of hardworking smallholders — that make us proud to be in this business.

Bihonegn
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The 2016 Coffee Harvest has begun!!

This week Moyee impact officer Mark Kauw heads to Ethiopia to see how the 2016 harvest is taking shape. He’ll use the Tega & Tula farm as his home base from which he’ll visit numerous Moyee smallholders in the area – tiny farms tucked away in the Ethiopian rainforest. This is where we find some of the world’s most exquisite coffee beans, beans handpicked by locals and laid out to dry naturally in the sun. Mark will be travelling with a team of experts in soil and coffee plants, and he’ll use his time wisely by sitting down with the farmers to discover what they need now and in the long term. Exciting!!

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Meet Farmer Bogale

Meet Mr. Bogale Gebre-Yesus. Not only is he the owner a very awesome name, but Bogale is also a very devoted coffee farmer.

Name: Bogale Gebre-Yesus
Location: Tega
Size of property: 2 hectares
Community role: Head Administrator Tega

Like Zwedie, another partner smallholder recently profiled here, Bogale has a wife and seven children in the small highland village of Tega situated in the heart of Kaffa, the birthplace of Arabica.

Alongside coffee, Bogale also grows corn and teff.  In his free time he is also the village administrator and oversees a community of no less than 250 smallholding coffee farmers. These farmers often come together to share a glass of  Tej, a local honey wine, and discuss the possibility of a better life for themselves and their families. By offering Bogale access to better harvesting techniques and, of course, fairer prices, we are helping his entire community achieve more financial freedom. After all, that’s the least we can offer these world-class farmers.