Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 2 - in Arusha, Tanz. EAFCA

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
Met interesting folks on the shuttle bus from Arusha town to the hotel where the conference is -- Europeans from the 4C program, the Neumann Stiftung and a Canadian from FAST. The 4C program can be described as "UTZ light". A few years ago, some private companies (including big ones like Nestle and Tchibo), some producers and some funding organizations got together to create a standard of "the basics" for sustainability, fair working conditions and good business practices. The 4C enables producers who are doing a good job (but not yet good enough to get certified) to still differentiate themselves from producers who are using good practices.

The morning session on women in coffee was great. First August Burns from Grounds for Health talked about their recent successes. While I've always thought Grounds for Health was good, I was skeptical because the focus on cervical cancer seemed so narrow -- limited even. After August's talk, I understood better! They are saving women's lives and will reduce the rate of cervical cancer by 30% in the communities where they work. The finale was a great video prepared by IWCA with Burundi women farmers sharing their stories. Very inspiring. Phyllis Johnson's presentation about IWCA used an African proverb as a theme, "if you want to go fast, travel alone; if you want to go far, travel together."

Next was a roundtable session hosted by CQI on "High Coffee Prices - Good or Bad?". How's that for a topic? It drew 8 or 10 tables of 6 each and the session was moderated by Bruce Mullins of Coffee Bean International. The photo shows the list of "goods" and "bads" that was finally distilled out of each small groups' discussions.

The next event was the coffee farm visit. I went on the bus with 20 others to Two Bridges Estate, which was over an hour's drive away, on the other side of Mt. Meru. This was advertised as a "high tech" farm and it was. They have two center pivot irrigation machines on their large, flat fields with no trees. These make up the "low" farm. Two other farms belong to the same owner, but they are higher up, on slopes and they have shade. The farm also is implementing an innovative inter-cropping method with a plant called sun-hemp. Sun hemp is totally worthless as a grain ("even cows won't eat it" we were told). So it doesn't get stolen, and it's allowed to grow to about 4 ft. tall, then it's felled to just lay on the ground and accomplish 3 things: retain moisture in the soil, fix nitrogen in the soil and fight against nemotodes (a pest).

The washing station at Two Bridges was odd because it was 7km away and up a mountain. They have to truck coffee from the lower farm to the station, and then bring it back down again for storage. The station seemed a little old, but they ran the depulper for us with some buckets of cherries. The equipment and set-up seemed to be running great.

I was invited to a dinner by Schluter at a nearby restaurant. Like the night before, tables were actually out in the open, just under a sturdy tent. The food was excellent and two quality awards were presented.

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