Zimbabwe was once known as the ‘breadbasket of Africa’ for its fertile fields and valleys that grew wheat, tobacco, and corn for export across the continent and abroad. Coffee was a key crop, and globally recognized where connoisseurs sipped cups of the smooth, fruity Zimbabwe blends at trendy coffee shops in London, Tokyo, and Johannesburg. The country’s coffee industry suffered devastating setbacks over the past couple of decades, but Zimbabwean coffee is now experiencing a resurgence—and it’s changing the lives of determined smallholder farmers.
Swiss coffee brand Nespresso and international NGO TechnoServe have been working to revitalize coffee sectors in East Africa since 2015. By serving as a buyer to local farmers, Nespresso helps to stabilize the market while also financing TechnoServe’s staff to work on the ground with the communities; training farmers and providing technical expertise in recommended practices. More and more farmers in Zimbabwe are beginning to grow coffee as they see how it can lead to a better livelihood.
“Farmers are coming back to coffee from other crops,” says Nespresso AAA Sustainable Coffee Program™ manager Midway Bhunu, who coordinates implementation in the Honde Valley region of Zimbabwe. Midway also helped to develop the curriculum of the program’s AAA Academy, which provides lessons on crop management to local farmers. The academy is contributing to the empowerment of women as well, by encouraging trainings to try to include as many women as men so they can learn the same skills. Current female participation in Nespresso AAA programs in Zimbabwe is 47 percent.
One of these farmers is Jesca Kangai, a planter from Pangeti village in the Mutasa district of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. She’s seen a distinct increase in the quality of her coffee since the AAA program came to Zimbabwe. “Nespresso is teaching us good coffee farming methods,” she says, “from pruning the shrubs, cutting so it can grow tall, selecting the seeds, cleaning and grading, and milling to get high quality coffee.” More than 2,000 farmers are now working with Nespresso’s AAA program, and coffee production has increased by 7 percent, while quality production has increased by 51 percent.
For Jesca’s family, coffee has proven to be a prosperous and life-changing undertaking, enabling her family to build a house, buy livestock, and even send her son to the best school in the community. With this kind of support, Zimbabwe’s coffee sector is starting to once again become a flourishing industry, allowing hundreds of smallholders to make a good living.