Climate change threatens coffee growers in Tanzania

KILEMA, Tanzania

Coffee-growing farmers in Tanzania’s northern Kilimanjaro region are bearing the brunt of climate change, which is affecting their incomes and livelihoods.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Damian Mtega, a coffee improvement manager at the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute, said rising temperatures around Mt Kilimanjaro and insect outbreaks have reduced coffee production by up to 75%.

“The rising temperatures have brought drought, increased diseases, and killed insects that pollinate coffee plants,” he said.

Tanzania is the third-largest coffee producer in Africa, producing on an average 40,000 metric tons of coffee annually, so generating a revenue of $162 million a year, according to government statistics.

According to Mtega, Arabica — the most lucrative variety of coffee that accounts for up to 70% of Tanzania’s production — is vulnerable to temperature fluctuations.

“The Arabica variety requires mild rainfall and at least four months of dry weather to grow well,” he said.

Areas at lower elevations are no longer suitable for coffee farming, Mtega also said, adding that some farmers in Kilimanjaro have been forced to move to higher ground, where temperatures remain sufficiently cool.

Vicky Massawe, who is growing coffee on her 1-acre (0.4-hectare) farm in the rolling hills of Machame in north Kilimanjaro, said bad weather has disrupted the growing cycle.

“We are suffering a lot from drought. Even rains have become unpredictable,” she said.

Massawe, also the head of a local group that represents hundreds of small coffee farmers, said the region’s climate was once ideal for growing coffee, with stable temperatures and adequate rainfall.

But in recent decades, the climate has become increasingly hostile, she said. Temperatures are rising and there is a delay in rains that adversely affect coffee growers.

Extreme weather conditions such as heavy rainfall and frequent drought spells are threatening the livelihoods of many farmers like Massawe in the region.

The farmers blamed drought for damaged, twisted, or undersized beans, while also complaining that too much rain during the critical flowering stage has also damaged flowers even before the beans could take shape.

“I have lost hope with this crop. I have focused all my attention on bananas and vegetables to earn an extra income because coffee is no longer profitable,” said Verdiana Temu, a coffee farmer in Kilema.

The Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) is now equipping farmers with skills to adapt to changing conditions, providing resilient seeds, monitoring production, and suggesting new agriculture techniques.

Philemon Ndossi, the KNCU’s chairman, said the organization has teamed up with researchers to revive the industry by growing and developing resilient coffee seedlings.

“We have obtained more than 60,000 quality coffee seedlings which we distribute to farmers,” he said.

Arabica coffee is grown on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, under the shades of banana trees.

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