Coffee producers in many countries are facing difficulties due to changing weather patterns. Heavy rains in Colombia are affecting yields, and frosts in Brazil have decimated certain coffee-growing regions, forcing farmers to turn to other, more profitable and resiliant crops. Coffee, in particular Arabica, is one of the “gentler” plants, that can suffer or die in unfavourable conditions.

Coffee growers in Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro region have discovered this problem according to a new report by the Anadolu Agency. Higher temperatures and insect outbreaks have reduced coffee production by up to 75%, severely affecting the growers’ incomes and livelihoods.

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.

Verdiana Temu, a coffee farmer in Kilema

On average, Tanzania produces 40,000 tonnes of coffee annually, making it the third-largest coffee producer in Africa. Arabica makes up to 70% of the coffee crop, but this variety is particularly vulnerable to temperature fluctuations, said Damian Mtega, a coffee improvement manager at the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute. According to Mtega, “The Arabica variety requires mild rainfall and at least four months of dry weather to grow well.”

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But the rainfalls have become unpredictable, and the droughts have been quite severe. The heavy rainfalls and delays in rain affect the quality of coffee. Due to drought, the beans are damaged, twisted or undersized, whereas heavy rain damages flowers during the critical flowering stage. 

As a result, the lower-lying areas are no longer suitable for coffee farming, which has led some farmers to move their plantations to higher ground where temperatures remain suitable for Arabica plants.

The Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) helps farmers by teaching them how to adapt to “changing conditions, providing resilient seeds, monitoring production, and suggesting new agriculture techniques. According to KNCU’s chairman, Philemon Ndossi, the organisation has obtained more than 60,000 more resilient coffee seedlings, which they will distribute to the farmers.

Photo by ©Anna Omelchenko/Fotolia on Encyclopedia Brittanica

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