Karagwe District Cooperative Union (KDCU), a coffee cooperative supported by Lutheran World Relief, has been announced as the first-place winner of the 2020 Tanzania Fine Coffees Competition. Taking home a certificate and trophy from the competition held in late November in Kilimanjaro, KDCU received a high cupping score of 80.44% for its Robusta coffee. A cupping score of over 80 is considered “specialty” grade.
Things were not always so fine for the KDCU cooperative. Prior to its partnership with LWR, KDCU faced several challenges in marketing its coffee and in day-to-day business operations. The cooperative was weak and operated in an unsustainable manner; its operational costs were higher than the income generated from coffee sales, and the coffee’s cupping score was very low, making it difficult to attract an international market.
From October 2014 to September 2018, LWR implemented a four-year project, “Pamoja kwa mafanikio: Working together for prosperous livelihoods in Karagwe and Kyerwa.” This project aimed to benefit more than 20,000 farmers involved in the KDCU cooperative through capacity strengthening, supportive supervision and linking coffee farmers to viable markets. The project aimed to increase the farmers’ resilience to coffee price volatility and to the changing climate.
LWR facilitated trainings with the cooperative managers and farmer groups to help develop strategic plans with well-defined specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed (SMART) milestones, teamwork at all levels and with other stakeholders, including forging strategic partnerships to access international/regional knowledge, and linking farmers to structured markets. LWR also supported the development of a coffee cupping laboratory, making KDCU the only union in the country that has access to such a resource.
Two years after the project closed, KDCU remains strong thanks to LWR’s partnership. The cooperative has been able to increase the volume of coffee produced from 1,343 metric tons in the 2014/2015 season to 39,486 metric tons in the 2018/2019 season and is now exporting its coffee to the UK, EU, Japan and Australia. The cooperative’s membership has grown from 22,000 members in 2014 to 64,000 members in 2018. Before the project, KDCU was operating at loss, but now the cooperative is healthy financially with a net annual profit of $1.7M.
LWR’s interventions brewed success for the cooperative, as well as for the individual farmers impacted by the project. Mr. Msafiri Gabagambi, a farmer from Ndama village in the Karagwe District and member of the Ndama Primary Cooperative Society, which is part of KDCU, affirms, “Ever since I started selling my coffee to KDCU in 2018, I have been receiving multiple payments. This has never happened before. For three consecutive years from 2018 to 2020, KDCU has increased the farm gate price of coffee cherry from 1,000 TZS ($.43 USD) to 1,200 TZS ($.52 USD) per kilogram. My income has increased significantly, and now I am able to meet my basic needs, send my children to school and build a new house. I am proud to be a member of KDCU.”