Wednesday, December 16, 2015

44. "To Sort or Not To Sort" - That is The Farmer's Question

Dec. 16, 2015

Our team of researchers refined and debated the wording of each question on our instrument that will guide the interviews of 2024 smallholder coffee farmers. The questions where we try to quantify the farmer's number of hours spent sorting cherry brought out interesting details from the researchers who have worked with coffee farmers a long time. There is a lot of variability out there. Some sort at home, some don't. And "sorting at home" might mean sorting in among the coffee trees, or it might mean carrying the cherry to the household compound and then sorting. Some sort at the washing station before they can get paid; other washing stations "buy everything" so the farmer does not spend time sorting at the washing station (but the washing station probably does).

Recently, Ben Carlson from Long Miles Coffee Project (LMCP) in Burundi implemented a very interesting "market test" related to sourcing quality cherry from Burundi's smallholder coffee producers. I love his story because as we work on quality issues in Rwanda and Burundi, a key point I am trying to show is that coffee washing stations do not clearly communicate their quality requirement. Communicating a quality requirement to suppliers is a key principle of "Lean at Origin."

Ben's story:
1. LMCP was very strict last season (2015). We told coffee producers we needed 100% red ripe cherry. We showed them with Brix meters why. We conducted an open cupping at select hills and let them taste the difference in 'ripe' (high Brix reading) vs. 'not ripe' (low Brix reading).  
2.  From the first day we opened the washing station, we strictly enforced the "only red" rule. What did this enforcement look like? We didn’t tell them they couldn’t deliver.  Rather we floated and sorted each farmer's cherries and wouldn’t purchase any that didn’t meet our standard.  Sometimes this meant sending home over half of a farmer's a daily harvest*.  Farmers were encouraged to come back, but only with red cherries. 
 *these would be hulled at home and sold as “semi washed” to a local buyer.

  • About 400 total families stopped delivering to us (between our two stations). Over-all numbers didn’t end up reflecting the exact difference, as we did end up actually adding a few hundred different farmers also, based on our reputation and coffee scout interaction.  Yet from the  farmers recorded as delivering at least one day in 2014 and then zero in 2015, we lost 400 families.
  • We also saw a tremendous increase in quality at the station!  The most quantifiable test was winning #3 and #8 at the COE with the delivered cherries to the station. In 2014 we did not place in the top 10. 
  • Farmers received an increase in price per kg of 20%-45% compared to other washing stations allowing any cherries to be delivered in 2015.
  • Farmers in the area haven taken note of the higher prices! Our managers, coffee scouts and agronomists have had farmer interaction and commitments that will add a significant increase of volume and number of farmers in 2016 based on the price and timelines of payment of LMCP.

Interesting side note on Collection Points.
Our collection points are run by cooperatives.  The same strict measures were expected  in these locations but were not adhered to. We did not have a clear daily communication program at collection points like we had at the washing stations. Thus we received lower quality cherry, more triage and under-grades. The result was a noticeable cup quality decrease from collection points pre-triage and a huge difference in the volume of A2 and A3 parchment. Bottom line, profits on cherry from the collection points were lower.

Thus LMCP will be hiring more scouts and placing Coffee Scouts with Brix meters to train farmers at every collection point and oversee rejection of cherries there in 2016.  Another decrease in farmer delivery??? Perhaps. And with that feared decrease in numbers of farmers delivering, will certainly come the proven increase in prices to those farmers who achieve the requirement, and they will gain new producer families who are up to the challenge to deliver only quality cherry!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

43. Antestia's Days are Numbered Now

Dec. 6, 2015                                                                                              Kigali, Rwanda
Goals of the Africa Great Lakes Coffee (AGLC) project:
1. Reduce antestia incidence (thereby reducing potato taste defect)
2. Demonstrate improved productivity that results when antestia is controlled.

The exciting start-up of the project is happening.
  • MSU team is here from East Lansing
  • Baseline instrument finally finalized (after something like 17 versions!)
  • IPAR staff are working tirelessly to translate the 350+ line baseline survey into Kinyarwandan. Same thing is happening in Burundi at University of Ngozi to get a Kirundi version. 
  • IPAR is also hiring the enumerators who will start training tomorrow.
  • Our Burundian research leads have hired their enumerators for Burundi.
  • Next week IPAR will translate the survey manual into Kinyarwandan. 
  • Burundi's research leads will travel to Kigali, participate in the Rwandan enumerator training then replicate it in Burundi with their enumerators.
  • Meanwhile, Aniseh, with the MSU staff, is working day and night to get English, Kinyarwandan and Kirundi loaded into the CSPro software for the tablets.
  • After 2 days training, the pre-test of the instrument happens for 2 days.
  • Friday, Dec. 11, we'll debrief the experience in the field. 
  • In another 7 days, we should be ready to start the actual baseline survey for the 2 weeks leading up to the holiday break.
Oh yes - my family and I also moved into our house in Kigali on Dec. 1. We're finally feeling like we're staying awhile, after a month of living out of suitcases. I'm grateful to be able to focus on monitoring and evaluation for this project again, instead of feeling like such a foreigner trying to register kids for school, buy a car, rent a house, find groceries, etc.

Friday, November 13, 2015

42. LTC Rwanda - Innovations in the Rwanda Coffee Supply Chain

Friday, Nov. 13, 2015
Serena Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda
Panel on "Innovations and Community Development in the Rwandan Coffee Supply Chain"
Sustainable Harvest's Christine Condo moderated this panel that truly kept me sitting on the edge of my seat throughout. My fingers could not type fast enough as each panel member described the innovations they have already brought to their operations and the new things they are planning to do.

Panel speakers were:
  • Anastase Minani, President of Dakunde Kawa, a cooperative in Gakenke district (North)
  • Jean Bosco Ngabonziza, President of Rusizi Specialty Coffee, Rusizi district (West)
  • Pascal Kalisa, KZ Noir, 8washing stations in Gakenke and other districts (West and North)
  • Agnes Nyinawumuntu, Twongere Umusaruro Coop in Kayonza district (East)
  • Asterie Mukangango, Nyampinga Cooperative in Nyruguru district (South)
  • Inyoung Anna Kim, LetSequoia, Co. based in Korea, investing in Rwanda and Congo
Highlights for me from each of the speakers presentations were as follows:
  • Agnes Nyinawumuntu - I appreciated her emphasis on the importance of training for her cooperative of women. The first training Sustainable Harvest gave them was in quality, now they will have training in organization building and management. To keep cooperative members motivated, the board decided to set a goal to give each member 2 new clothes per year. Every woman likes to have beautiful clothes! And a good sleep is important, too, so another goal is to improve their livelihoods by buying 156 double mattresses in the coming year.
  • Pascal  Kalisa of KZ Noir seemed unaware of how innovative and impressive his list of accomplishments sounded to a coffee supply chain researcher like me. He described their supply problem -  11% of their supplying producers bring their coffee directly to the washing stations. 89% do not bring their coffee, they go through middleman. So KZ Noir decided they needed to get to know these "farmers once removed" better. Their vision is to benefit the coffee growers so they have to do this. Among the things they did with their "Know Your Farmer" survey is they taught them how to count their trees. This way the farmers are less likely to claim to have 5000 trees when they only have 3000 trees. KZ taught the CWS managers to use the tablets so that they could conduct the survey with each of the farmers who deliver to their WS.
  • Jean Bosco Ngabonziza – Rusizi Specialty coffee, had a wonderful emphasis on developing trust and breaking down old barriers between people. He works with 400 farmers in the far West and he offers a lunch at midday for all the workers to sit together. When they have an event (which they do regularly) they emphasize over and over that all are invited and truly encourage all to come. "We are entrenching unity."

  • Inyoung Anna Kim - LetSequoia Coffee has invested $US 1 million in Rwanda and coffee so far. They have focused on management skills at the cooperative level. Then they connect the cooperatives to buyers, selling exportable green for $7.5 - $8/kilo (translates to $3.4 - $3.6/lb). They lead a train the trainer program in collaboration with NAEB which trained 26 people -- 13 of them passing. They have creative efforts with their partners such as the "golden chicken project," encouraging chicken raising and use of chicken manure. And my favorite -- they are organizing a COFFEE OLYMPICS in December. There will be competitions to see who can pick the best and who can roast the best. I'm excited about the contest to see who can pick the best! I'm sure there are lean practices in picking that today, only a few "frontline" coffee pickers know. With programs like "Coffee Olympics" we can highlight and encourage these best practices. Organizations and supply chains that embrace such 'lean at origin' practices, will outperform the others on quality, profit and worker empowerment.

  • Asterie Mukangango's (Nyamapinga Cooperative - 124 farmers) presentation was exciting because you could feel how excited and proud she was of her organization. It's even more exciting when you realize that before the start of the Relationship Coffee Institute program, this group of women was not organized as a cooperative at all. No had heard of them. Now they have a washing station, since 2014 every member has paid health insurance and Asterie told us her oganization's impressive goals:
  1. Look for new members
  2. Build a store house
  3. Divide into different cells to do outreach more effectively
  4. Gain more knowledge
  5. Help members have access to small amounts of credit
  • Anastasi (Isaac) Minani, Dukunde Kawa, North district. Anastasi shared a few of the accomplishments of his cooperative, which is in the Africa Great Lakes Coffee (AGLC) project sample set of 16 washing stations, and has been discussed earlier in this blog. They have:
    • They have 3 milling(dry) stations (3 of only a few outside of Kigali in the entire country), the biggest has 9 machines.
    • They give cows, health insurance, and pay school fees with no interest for members. 
    • The management board visited a banana plantation, learned much about best practices for quality control and is now and transferring that knowledge to coffee.
    • They have started a water harvesting project.

[author: Ruth Ann Church, Artisan Coffee Group]