In the ’90s, Zimbabwean coffee was always on specialty menus of coffee bars anywhere in the world it was exported to. It accounted for about three percent of Zimbabwe’s GDP and brought wealth to farming communities either through individual farms, commercial farms or labourers working to ensure bumper harvest.
The Southern African country is blessed with perfect conditions for growing coffee beans and it in turn blesses the world with its super high-quality, sweet, citric, chocolatey coffee. But in 2001, farms were seized and coffee production fell, forcing the highly productive industry into decline, with many farmers wallowing in debt. In 2014, Zimbabwe produced about 35,000 tons of coffee, compared to 90,000 in 1988. By 2017/2018 season, production had declined to 430 tonnes from 510 tonnes the previous season. But Swiss company Nespresso wants things to change. The company, Thursday, announced a long-term investment plan to revive Zimbabwe’s coffee industry and stimulate the rural economy.
“We are investing in reviving coffee farming in different regions of the world, where adverse conditions have impacted the lives of farmers and their ability to grow and nurture their coffee industries. Zimbabwe has a long history of producing beautiful coffees and we are pleased to be working with farmers through our AAA Sustainable Quality Program to help bring this industry back to life,” said Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nespresso.
The company works with farmers through its AAA Sustainable Quality Program, which aims to create long-term, sustainable quality through direct relationships with farmers. It currently works with more than 75,000 farmers who benefit from hands-on support from agronomists as they learn how to develop their businesses. Hence, Nespresso will provide training and technical assistance to 400 smallholder coffee farmers in Zimbabwe over the next five years, with the goal of increasing the country’s production of quality sustainable coffee which it was once known for.
The company will be working with TechnoServe, an international non-profit organization specializing in business solutions to poverty, to train farmers on how to use climate-smart, sustainable farming practices to revive their production.
Nespresso expects to buy more than 95 percent of the high quality coffee production of Zimbabwean smallholders this season and will make the coffee available to global consumers in 2019.
The company, which is a subsidiary of Nestlé, is already working with farmers for the next harvest, where it expects volumes to increase, marking a potential turning point for Zimbabwe’s coffee producers.
Nespresso’s investment in Zimbabwe follows similar efforts the company has made to revive coffee production in South Sudan and Colombia.
The government of Zimbabwe had in July announced that it was working on a plan to increase coffee production by 37 percent in six years. According to a paper which laid out the government’s plans, the strategy will require $60 million over five years.