- January 2019
- Written by : Jay Mlodzinski
Green Coffee Logistics Manager / Green Coffee Buyer
We have sourced coffee for Karyenda from Greenco since it was founded in 2015. This year’s offering comes from Greenco’s Butegana coffee washing station (CWS), nestled in the northern corner of Burundi in the Kayanza Commune of Kayanza Province. This lush agricultural area is the source of the Nile river and arguably the heart of the country’s specialty coffee sector.
Originally owned by the government, Butegana was the first CWS built in Burundi. It also happens to be the first one that Greenco purchased when it established its operations in the region. Fortunately for Greenco, Ernest Nzohabonaya stayed on at Butegana when it purchased the plant. Ernest had been managing operations at Butegana for decades before Greenco purchased it and has played no small part it its continuous success over the years. Today, Ernest oversees all of Greenco’s 13 coffee washing stations, but a newly reconstructed Butegana remains the model on which all the other Greenco CWS are based.
Greenco’s focus on experimentation and continuous improvement in wet milling and the subsequent drying process is instantly evident upon visiting its washing stations. Some of the tweaks are so small they are barely noticeable, such as trying different heights, angles, and cuts for the dams that control the water flow in the washing channels in order to better separate higher density from lower density seeds. Others are more substantial, like removing the post-fermentation soak from the wet milling process in an effort to reduce waste water or implementing full-scale yeast experiments at one of its washing stations. Regardless of the scope of its experimentation, Greenco is looking ever onward and forward toward improving quality and producing more vibrant coffees.
More importantly, Greenco is committed to improving the lives of the many farmers and families that live in the areas surrounding its washing stations. On average, some 3,500 growers deliver cherry to each of Greenco’s 13 washing stations. Many of these growers come from large families, some with as many as eight to 10 children, and see coffee as their best bet to overcome the poverty that is so widespread in Burundi.
For each of the past two years, I had the honor of meeting with the lead farmers from each of the communities that deliver cherry to one of the Greenco washing stations. While I was thrilled to brew, serve, and drink with them some Karyenda that they had produced during the previous harvest, I was even more overjoyed by listening to each of them tell me about themselves, their families, and their farms. I then asked each one of them what would help the most to improve their coffee farms and their lives. One after one, all the way down the line, almost every single farmer told me the exact same thing without prompting: fertilizer. Of course it makes sense given how important coffee is to their lives and how low their production is — some of the lowest production levels in the world given the size of their small farms and relatively low yields.
In this context, Intelligentsia is seeking opportunities to help make coffee an agent of change and partnering with the Kahawatu Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps farmers throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa. It takes a holistic approach to helping communities with everything from delivering financial education and creating savings and loan associations, to providing seedlings and fertilizer.
For every per pound of coffee we purchased from Greenco this year we made a contribution to Kahawatu and worked directly with the farmers and communities where we have sourced our Karyenda offering in the past so that they could get assistance with what they know they need: domestic livestock that will provide fertilizer, food and income, an ultimately a better life for them and future generations.