Farm: Hasambo Agricultural Marketing Cooperative and Society
Varietal: Kent, Bourbon, N39 & other local varieties
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on African beds
Altitude: Approx. 1,570 metres above sea level
Owner: Various small holder producers
Town / City: Ilembo, Mbozi
Hasambo AMCOS PB - Tanzania
Hasambo AMCOS is widely known as one of the best run and most long-lived cooperatives in Southern Tanzania. The group was first registered in 1993 as a sub-group of the Mbozi Cooperative Union (MBOCU) – one of the oldest in Tanzania. In 2002, Hasambo cooperative struck out on their own and began to operate independently. They started their Central Processing Unit (CPU - as washing stations/wet mills are called here) business in 2010, with the help of TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiative Program, and today, the group has 400 registered members and about 700 non-registered who also deliver to the CPU. All in all, the membership represent approximately 500 hectares of prime coffee growing land.
A great deal of the cooperative’s longevity (rare in this region) can be attributed to its very honest, organised and committed board members. The membership of Hasambo puts a great deal of faith in their leaders, all of whom are democratically elected, and the leadership has done an excellent job of representing the interests of their members. The coop has, in recent years, increasingly focused on quality as a distinguishing factor in both production and processing and has made great headway in accessing speciality coffee markets for its members. The efforts have paid off. In 2014 Hasambo was ranked number one in the Taste of Harvest Competition for Tanzania – a great reward for the effort and progress the group has made over the past few years.
Hasambo’s growing reputation for producing quality coffee and the interest they have received in establishing direct sales relationships with buyers has gained the attention of many farmers in the region, and the group’s capacity is growing rapidly. So much so that the group has invested in a new machine – a Penagos 2500 UCBE – for their wet mill to deal with the increase in volume. In particular, non-member customers who deliver their cherry to the CPU are on the rise, which helps the group cover operating costs.
Mercanta’s exporting partner in Tanzania began working with Hasambo AMCOS as a producer support organization in 2011 after the group phased out of TechnoServe’s Program. Through their affiliation with our exporting partner, the group receives training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), help with coffee sustainability programs and advice and guidance on coffee processing practices and quality control. Over the years, this partnership has enabled Hasambo to install their CPU, buy materials for drying tables, and construct a building for storing their coffee.
Hasambo’s members ensure soil fertility primarily by applying compost, manure and engaging in good agricultural processes, such as dual cropping. Members use industrial fertilisers very sparingly, as they are expensive and often not needed if organic fertilisers can be used instead. Regular renovation has also increasingly a part of farmers’ toolkits for better productivity and higher quality coffee. Renovation activities conducted by most of the members are pruning and de-suckering to encourage plant rejuvenation. These activities are normally conducted after the harvest, starting in September and continuing through March of the following year. Stumping is conducted for plants that are either too old or plants that are affected by disease or pest damage. The frequency of stumping is not scheduled and happens usually only when the tree's production has declined. Old trees will be replaced with Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TACRI) recommended varieties. TACRI supplies the seeds and/or seedlings at reasonable prices to farmers and provides advice on which varieties are suitable for various soil compositions and microclimates along with providing advice and training on plant care: in fact, they often establish demonstration plots located near to farmers for training purposes.
A contributing factor to the high quality of Hasambo’s coffee is the strict quality control standards that they maintain for all cherry delivered to their CPU. Cherries must be selectively hand-picked and delivered to the CPU within 8 hours of harvest. Most farms are located quite near the mill, with the closest being only 300 metres away and the furthest 10 kilometres. In order to ensure that the coffee arrives at the mill in a timely fashion, the Cooperative has developed a shunting/ transportation system to collect coffee from all farmers who are either far from the wet mill or produce a large volume. Hasambo hires cars and motorbikes which go to visit farmers who have notified leaders in advance that they are harvesting that day. A secretary is appointed during the harvest season to arrange all logistics, and this system has enabled the Cooperative to have more control over the quality of the cherry and pulped coffee that arrives at the mill.
Hasambo previously owned a Penagos 1500 UCBE pulper; however, as mentioned above, due to increasing volume they have newly installed a Penagos 2500 UCBE. When coffee is delivered to the washing station, it is sorted, again, to remove any remaining debris and underripe or damaged cherry. It is then loaded into the hopper and delivered to the pulping machine. The Penagos 2500 features a demucilager that removes a high proportion of the mucilage. This shortens fermentation times, slightly, reducing them to only around 10 to 12 hours depending on climate conditions.
After pulping the coffee is then washed using cold, clean water through channels where it is sorted into P1 and P2 weight categories. Once washed the coffee is taken in buckets from the density-sorting channel to the drying tables where the parchment is then air dried for at least 7 days and sometimes as many as 10. The coffee is turned regularly and covered with netting during the heat of the day.
Different lots are separated and traceable according to the dates of processing. The CPU’s fermentation tanks, tables and bags are all labelled with processing dates, volume and fermentation tank number as the coffee makes its way through the processing line.
Challenges for the Future:
Despite Hasambo’s great successes, like so many cooperatives from across Tanzania, they still face challenges for the future. Some of the biggest challenges currently faced are low productivity and economic profitability of coffee farming. Productivity issues are being addressed through renovation activities. Furthermore, focus on the speciality market has helped maintain profits for farmers.