Farm: Halambo Community
Varietal: Bourbon, Kent
Processing: Fully washed, sun dried
Altitude: Approx 1,800 metres
Owner: Smallholders from around town of Halambo
Town / City: Halambo
Region: Mbozi - Mbeya
Halambo AA - Tanzania
The Halambo Farmers’ Group is a recently formed producer group made up of approximately 200 smallholder farmers who farm less than one hectare, on average, near the the villages of Halambo, Halungu and Harpangala, deep in the mountainous Mbeya region of Southwest Tanzania. In addition to cultivating coffee, which is most families’ main source of cash income in this part of the country, families also farm maize, beans and sunflower primarily for subsistence.
20% or more of all coffee grown in Tanzania is grown in the south of the country, and the region’s high altitudes, fertile soil and plentiful rain create ideal climatic conditions for growing high-quality coffee. Despite this perfect setting, the South is often overshadowed by the coffee growing reputation of the North – for instance, the well-known coffee producing slopes of Kilimanjaro. However, two factors are working to put the south of Tanzania more firmly ‘on the coffee map’. As climatic shifts make it increasingly difficult to grow quality Arabica at lower altitudes, the high reaches of Tanzania’s southern plateaus stand to become gradually more important and well-known. Climate change studies suggest that this is one of the only areas in the country that will continue to produce coffee (and even potentially increase in suitability for coffee production) as temperatures shift. Additionally, as population pressure and urban sprawl in the north of the country nibbles into traditional coffee growing areas, Mbeya’s districts (along with other southern coffee-growing areas such as Iringa and Ruvuma) look increasingly poised to emerge at the forefront of Tanzanian coffee.
Despite the promise of future prominence, smallholder coffee farmers living in the region face significant challenges. Youth disengagement, lack of access to resources for inputs and lack of training all pose threats to the continuity of coffee farming. Additionally, many of these smallholder farmers have older, disease-prone varietals and do not have access to new rootstock to renovate their coffee plots. On average, trees in the region are 50 years old.
Widespread distrust of cooperatives (a product of the region’s complex political history) has made it difficult for small producers to combat these problems in the past. However, with the assistance of our partner, Coffee Management Systems (CMS), who manage the CPU to which the Halambo producers deliver, these challenges are increasingly being surmounted. CMS has been working with the Halambo group since the beginning of 2014, providing them with extension services, training, and access to finance and processing facilities. CMS has also helped farmers to improve fertilisation and pruning methods, and, together with the Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute (TACRI), are working to increase farmers’ access to higher yielding, more disease-resistant varietals.
Farmers from the region will also participate in the Coffee Partnership for Tanzania (CPT), a partnership enabled and co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by DEG. The CPT is set to improve the livelihoods of 250,000 smallholder farmers across Tanzania.
This Halambo AA lot has been selected by CMS according to collection day and quality. After being selectively hand-picked and then sorted again on sorting tables at collection centres, the coffee is pulped within 12 hours of harvest. Wet parchment is separated into ‘heavies’ and ‘lights’ using water channels and is then covered and fermented in tanks for between 12-36 hours depending on weather conditions (or until the mucilage is adequately removed). The parchment coffee is then soaked and washed through sorting channels again, where it is further graded according to density.
The parchment coffee is then dried on raised coffee beds covered with coffee tray wire. Drying parchment is regularly turned to avoid moulding and to encourage even drying and is protected with black shade netting during the heat of the day to avoid cracking and again with nylon sheets at night to avoid dew.
After drying, coffee is sorted according to size. This AA lot is composed of the largest and most dense beans.