A Coffee Cooperative from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

By Timothy S. Collins

The Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) is a cooperative federation in Tanzania. KNCU is one of the oldest coffee cooperatives recorded in existence for the coffee trade. KNCU was founded in 1930 by Sir Charles Cecil Farquharson Dundas who was a district commissioner of the Moshi in Tanzania during the 1920's. The first coop members were the indigenous farmers of the Chagga tribe living on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. Sir Charles popularized the coffee production and successfully established the cooperative concept as a means of mutual cooperation and growth.

KNCU is owned by more than 60,000 farmers from an estimated 90 primary cooperatives growing coffee in the Kilimanjaro region.

  • KNCU has gone through many changes over the years, particularly during governmental intervention when the organization would lose its independent status.
  • Eventually, KNCU regained its independence from the government and established itself as an independent, self-governing body again.
  • KNCU is subject to government controls but it operates as an independent coop buying and selling coffee on behalf of the small scale farmers. The coffee production is sold primarily to the Fair Trade movements which means KNCU coop members receive a higher price than selling through other channels.
  • KNCU's smooth, mild beans are considered to be among the finest in Africa. Kilimanjaro coffee has unique hints of blackcurrant and citrus.
  • Coffee growers plant coffee bushes near banana trees because the beans mature more slowly under the shade of the banana trees. Natural sugars also increase in the coffee and they help enhance the natural flavor. KNCU farmers care very much for their coffee: it is their livelihood and it helps them preserve their traditions through the economic benefits they derive from the beans.
  • With the occurrence of weather changes, decrease in the water availability for irrigation and some unpredictable rainfalls, KNCU farmers are concerned about planning for the future and adjusting to changes they may need to make in their planting and harvesting processes.

KNCU runs a community based tourism project to bring in extra income to the small scale coffee farmers in the area.

  • The project is called "Kahawa Shamba."
  • It features a few dwellings built in the Chagga tribe style in the beautiful Kilimanjaro region.
  • Nothing really compares to watching Mount Kilimanjaro in the starlight and in the rising sun light, seated on the ground outside a tribal hut.
  • Near the visitor huts there are gardens where women of the project grow fruits and vegetables.
  • As part of the KNCU effort to make Kahawa Shamba a great public relations attraction for the tribe and the KNCU coop, the women who look after the tourists have been trained in proper food preparation and sanitation at a local technical college.
  • The experience includes trips to nearby attractions such as waterfalls, local towns and natural spots.
  • A big highlight of the excursions is a visit to a local coffee farm where visitors learn how coffee is grown and produced.

KNCU is a very successful coop that balances the commercial aspects of the coffee trade and the interest in tourism very well to its members' advantage. Kahawa Shamba also helps reinforce to the local community members the value of their traditions and culture. The evidence is the great interest in them that tourists from all over the world demonstrate regularly.

So, ready for a cup of delicious Tanzania Peaberry North Highlands?

Timothy S. Collins
Article by Timothy S. Collins
Timothy ("Tim") S. Collins, the author, is called by those who know him "The Gourmet Coffee Guy." He is an expert in article writing who has done extensive research online and offline in his area of expertise, coffee marketing, as well as in other areas of personal and professional interest. Come visit the author's website: www.ourgourmetcoffee.com.

© Copyright - Timothy S. Collins. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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