Article written

  • on 14.11.2014
  • at 11:30 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Coffee: From the nursery to the cup 0

Cameroon’s export coffee sector has had trouble taking off. But stakeholders who believe in its future are readily integrating into the value chain – right to the consumer’s cup.

Cameroonian coffee exports are not yet buoyant despite the range of incentive policies and projects that have been implemented. Export volumes even dropped from 26,664 t to 17,340 t between 2013 and May 2014, whereas 156,000 t was exported in 1990. Yet the national coffee sector is relatively vibrant, with both small and major stakeholders still – against all the odds – believing in its future.

Further up the chain, mechanisation is slowly making its entrance in coffee plantations. “We have been supporting mechanisation since 2012 as it enables us to readily expand our coffee-growing area and reduces labour. The Ministry of Agriculture offered us a cultivator, which means we can till 3 ha a day, whereas it took us 2-3 weeks to till a single hectare manually. Moreover, mechanisation helps us increase our coffee yields,” says Rebecca Kamgue, President of COOPAFERLOS, a Cameroonian women farmers’ cooperative. “With mechanisation, we also don’t have to pay the very high piapias labour costs. Manually, it costs FCFA 40,000 (€60) to clear a 1 ha field, while only FCFA 30,000 (€45) is needed for fuel to mechanically clear a 2 ha field.”

Patricia Ndam Njoya heads one of the largest private coffee plantations in Cameroon, at Foumban, and she is also convinced that mechanisation is the way forward. The two cultivators she recently purchased in France reduce the cost of hired labour while also liberating her family from heavy weeding work. Experience has shown that manual labour provides employment but does not improve living conditions in the long run. “When cultivating with a hoe and machete, we have been living in the same type of houses for the past three generations with no improvement. With manual labour, we’re barely able to earn enough to sustain us throughout the year, but machines help us boost our production. This makes it possible for women, especially, to leave the plantation and become involved in other levels further up the value chain.”

Where could women, especially young people, find less strenuous, better paid and more rewarding jobs elsewhere in the coffee sector? What about becoming a barista(who prepares and serves coffee drinks)? This was one of the challenges taken up by Njoya when she launched the Maison du Café in May 2014 in downtown Yaoundé. Her daughter became a barista in this trendy café after being trained by Mbula Kaluki Musau, a Kenyan woman who is a licensed Q Coffee Grader.

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Spore is the flagship magazine of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). From October 2012, the magazine is managed by a consortium led by Afronline’s publisher, VITA.

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