Wednesday, May 20, 2015

27. Field Notes 4: The GIFT in Huye

May 20, 2015 -- Gift Washing Station 

Damian MANIRAKIZA is the owner of Gift coffee washing station in the Huye district of the southern province. His pride in his washing station and his commitment to growing his coffee business was clear by his enthusiastic reception of our group. His pride in his work was matched well by the farmer we were able to interview in a nearby plantation.

Process Mapping and Waste Identification:
At the washing station I took a stab at process mapping. I drew the process of getting the wet parchment from the chutes onto the shaded sorting tables, and then from the shaded tables to the sun drying tables. They’ve devised some clever parchment moving techniques, but overall this is an extremely labor intensive part of coffee production at a washing station [see image].
My sketch of transfer of parchment from chutes to drying tables.

We talked with the Damien about how labor intensive the sorting process is. He mentioned that it is much easier to identify defective beans with a UV light. I asked about installing a UV light in the “roof” of the shaded sorting tables. He said it’s too expensive. This made me reflect on how easy it is to think of such capital intensive “solutions”. What would be no or low cost? Maybe visual management signs? 

There are 5 defects they are looking for:

  1. ·         Yellow (overripe)
  2. ·         Cut
  3. ·         Insect damage (lead indicator for potato taste defect)
  4. ·         Green
  5. ·         Black

Thinking about the sorting numbers exercise we did in “Lean Tools” class, I wonder whether there’s a way to make “seeing” the blacks easier, then go to a second pass for the yellows and greens, and a third pass for cut and insect damage.

MANIRAKIZA Damien teaches our group about the process at Gift washing station.
[Later in the trip we learn that Dakunde Kawa Musasa has installed a density sorter at the front end of the washing station, essentially mechanizing the cherry floatation sorting that many washing stations do.]

First Farmer Interview
We found a farmer and his wife picking cherry about 1 km from the washing station. With Augustin’s years of experience working with and advising farmers, he was able to gently introduce our strange entourage and our research project.

A key question this farmer raised was, ”why is Technoserve conducting farmer field schools and planting new trees to increase production, when the washing station had to close for 2 weeks due to over-abundance of cherry?” This is a good question. Projects that plant more than the capacity to process the crop can create a huge set of problems.

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