Maisha Marefu!

What do tourism and coffee farmers have in common?  A whole heck of a lot it turns out.  Kilimanjaro has always been heavy with visitors looking to conquer the mountain, but the rural population rarely had the opportunity to cash in on the existing tourism activities in the area.  Premiums facilitated by Fairtrade Africa have allowed farmers to invest in a project all their own – one that doesn’t include schlepping a pack 17,000 feet.
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KNCU’s Fair Tourism Project, Kahawa Shamba (literally “coffee farm”), takes visitors on a behind-the-scenes tour of the rural coffee production process – from berry to bean to that steaming hot cup ‘o joe.

Innovative tourism projects like Kahawa Shamba are diversifying farmer’s income, but also creating a unique experience for tourists.  “We want to be a bridge between coffee consumers and coffee producers,” says Deo Chombo, KNCU’s Fair Tourism Manager. Kahawa Shamba brings in 1,200 tourists annually, assisting 2,000 local coffee growers directly.  It’s Deo’s hope that one day all KNCU farmers will benefit. “Everybody needs to get support from this project,” he says.

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We pick, pulp, grind, sift, and roast our way to the final product with our guide, Josephat Minde.  What we’ve experienced in a matter of hours usually takes weeks of meticulous labor.  Josephat explains that every berry of KNCU coffee is picked by-hand.  Harvest time at the shamba is truly a family affair.  “Everyone participates in the harvest,” he says.  Berries on the lowest limbs of the coffee trees are left for the littlest family members to pluck.  “We will get the best quality by harvesting by hand,” says Josephat.

After a prolonged roasting process over an open fire, the coffee fiends among the crew are all too eager to get their caffeine buzz on.  With a traditional “Maisha Marefu!” cheers, we clink mugs and take a swig of the potent concoction.  Fresh coffee deliciousness.

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