Farm: Shimilangwada Estate Co. LTD
Varietal: Bourbon, N39 & Kent
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1540 - 1680 meters above sea level
Owner: Mr Nzunda
Town / City: Mbozi
Overall: Brown sugar, black tea, corriander seeds
Shimlingwanda Estate AB - Tanzania
Established in 1989, Shimilangwada is the second oldest farm in the Songwe region. Originally owned by a Swiss family farming just 67 acres, the estate was bought out in 2017 by Tanzanian entrepreneur Mr Nzunda, who purchased the land hoping to revive the old trees. Since taking ownership, Mr Nzunda has been able to double the area of productive coffee plantation and has driven forward the quality of the produce.
Previously known as Kamaro farm, Shimilangwada was once owned by Maria and her son, Herby Gabbeaur. Originally from Switzerland, the Gabbeaur’s have lived in Tanzania for more than 20 years. Maria first arrived in Tanzania in 1996. All on her own and with no previous experience in coffee, Maria travelled to Tanzania with the dream of becoming a coffee farmer. Back then, there were just 3.5 hectares of coffee planted; with the rest reserved for forest and farm infrastructure. The first harvest in 2011 was small, with only 400 kg of parchment gathered. The next year in 2012, Maria managed to produce a whopping 22,800 kg; a significant productivity growth in a relatively short period of time. This was made possible by The Gabbeaurs’ stringent attention to productivity measures ‘on the ground’ and their commitment to expanding the area under production over the years.
Although the farm had grown radically in size since Maria first began with her 3.5-hectare lot in 1996, Maria faced a number of challenges during her time. In recent years, the farm has been presented with issues such as coffee berry disease, coffee leaf rust and insect plague. The least manageable variable, however, is the unpredictable rainfall. Particularly in the last decade, the farm has been susceptible to drought and hasn’t received the rainfall needed during the flowering period to ensure an optimal crop.
In comes Mr Nzunda. 2019 will mark the first crop year since he took over the task of managing the farm. This is primarily due to the expansion and improvement plans that have been underway since it was first acquired. Shimilangwada has been engaged in irrigation improvements to combat the issue of unreliable rainfall; with plans to create an even bigger water reservoir. These important changes have driven the growth of the 67-hectare Kamaro farm into the new 130-hectare Shimilangwada estate. Interestingly, the new farm name, Shimilangwada, comes from an indigenous tree known to the Vwawa area, known for its white flowers and good shape.
The farm provides work to roughly 100 people in the low season and some 250 during harvest. Workers and pickers come from the surrounding villages, offering income and opportunity to men and women both skilled and unskilled. The management follows government regulation, ensuring that all employees are paid above the minimum wage and given access to necessities such as clean drinking water and toilets. The majority of the staff are hired for seasonal labour – particularly during the harvest but also for pruning and other seasonal activities. Pruning is primarily conducted after the harvest season, to remove weak or unhealthy branches. When a coffee tree is no longer producing its desired quota, the tree will be cut right back and stumped; focusing on one side to allow new shoots to grow from the other.
In addition to coffee, many farmers in the region grow produce such as maize, wheat and sorghum; amongst other cash crops. In the case of Shimilangwada, Mr Nzunda currently has a smaller area assigned to avocado farming. As well as providing a second source of income, produce such as maize provides useful by-products like mulch for the coffee trees; locking in moisture and later turning into organic compost. Similarly, the primary fertiliser for many farms in the region is manure, mixed with small amounts of NPK (known as Yara Java). The rest of the land not under direct cultivation by Mr Nzunda is rented to neighbouring farmers, and those who don’t own lands in order to grow maize, beans and peanuts.
When it is time to harvest, Coffee cherry is selectively handpicked and sorted into lots; separated by the area in which it was harvested and by the day it was picked and washed. The process begins by separating out any under/ overripe cherry, along with any foreign matter such as sticks or gravel. Next, the coffee is pulped using the farm's mechanical pulper to remove the outer layer of fruit and sorted by density. Typically, the cherries are picked, sorted and pulped all in the same day; with processing conducted in the evening. Next, the coffee is placed into fermentation tanks to remove the remaining mucilage. The beans remain here for between 24 to 72 hours, and are checked every morning, depending on the atmospheric temperature. Once fermentation is complete, beans are washed in cool clean water at the farms washing station, before being transferred onto raised beds to dry.
Beans are spread across the raised beds and turned regularly for an even dry. For the first three days, parchment coffee is kept in the shade away from direct sunlight. After this, the coffee is then moved onto beds with direct sunlight. The tables are covered at high sun (noon) so that the beans are not scorched, as well as when it rains to prevent re-wetting. During the night, the coffee is covered with polythene to prevent the build-up of dew. The process of drying will typically take anywhere between 10 to 11 days; with beans only removed once the moisture content has reached 11.5% or lower.
Like many farms in the region, Shimilangwada is currently facing a number of challenges. One of the primary issues for Shimilangwada has been the inconsistent weather pattern and low rainfall in recent years, leading to increases in production expenses from irrigation and labour costs. The lack of rain also means lower total yield as longer dry seasons put coffee trees under stress; shortening the fruit development time. High input costs and low total yield is also met by the low market price for coffee, meaning coffee farming in the region is becoming unprofitable. This combination between increasing costs, low prices, inadequate rains and longer dry days is now exacerbating existing challenges facing farms and the wider community.