Today I was able to visit with Dr. Dan Clay at Michigan State University (MSU), he's the Director of Global Programs in Sustainable Agri-food Systems. It's a bittersweet time for Dr. Clay as tomorrow will mark the end of a 5 year, $20 million USAID grant program called the "Burundi Agriculture Program" or BAP. The lead on the program was Development Alternatives International (DAI) and the technical coffee-related portion was contracted to MSU.
The purpose of the project was to develop the value chain for three critical products: coffee, horticulture (flowers) and dairy. Work in coffee was designed to elevate knowledge across the coffee growing sector about technologies to improve quality and to provide new market linkages. Through these methods, small farmers with coffee could improve household incomes.
Burundi is a country whose agroecology and well-developed coffee infrastructure support the production of highly prized “mild arabicas,” and where political will is being mobilized to realize this remarkable potential.
An exciting outcome of the project is a website that provides not only technical but many visual and cultural insights on Burundi. Check out: www.cafedeburundi.com. For coffee roasters and importers who appreciate transparency, you will be amazed with the site's interactive map and listing of all the washing stations: http://www.cafeduburundi.com/
Another impressive deliverable Dr. Clay showed me was before-and-after maps of each of 12 "technologies" brought to coffee growing regions across the country. The maps visually showed (with small circles that grew to large circles) to what extent important technologies like pre-selecting cherries or using water-efficient de-pulping equipment, had been adopted. There was also an intensity measure incorporated, indicating MSU's involvement on a level of 1-4. These maps accomplished the often difficult task of quickly conveying how where MSU had been working intensely, there was a correlated increased rate of adoption of new technologies.
Michigan State University has definitely set the bar high for future work in developing specialty coffee markets and making wholistic paraticipation by the entire industry possible!