Kilimanjaro Day 2

Today I woke up to the sound of buzzing crickets and many other unidentified insects.  The sounds of Africa.  Looking out the window is breathtaking, all of the dark shadows I saw last night driving to Kibo Estates from Kilimanjaro airport have revealed themselves to be colorful flowers, tall, spindly trees, and the vast, towering Mt. Kilimanjaro.

After a full night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I was ready to set out and see some coffee farms.  At 11 am (10 am Africa Time, which is very similar to both Colombian Time and Peruvian Time), we hopped in Annabel’s truck and bumped our way down, or maybe up?, to Masama Pulpery, one of CCPK’s (Central Coffee Pulperies of Kilimanjaro) 4 collection and wet milling plants.  Adam, general manager of CCPK, and Jansen, director of CCPK, accompanied us and showed us the various parts of the mill.  The manager of the mill, Jerome, walked us through the steps taken from the arrival of coffee cherry to the finished dry parchment ready for transport.  I witnessed the washing of coffee for the first time, a fast rush of water and coffee parchment down a 30-meter concrete maze, and suddenly those long wash tanks made much more sense to me! Adam commented that the recommended length of a wash tank would be 50 meters, however this pulpery is using a new Colombian made pulper called a Penagos, which is apparently is more efficient in pulping and thus conserves water during the wet milling process.  Jerome also took us to see the farm of a neighbor who delivers his cherry to CCPK.  John Kimbata, owner of the farm, has one hectare of land and also grows bananas as a crop, as well as for shade trees.  Due to inheritance laws in Tanzania, family land gets divided up between all of the children, resulting in exponentially smaller farms over time, a real problem in regulating coffee quality from a buyer’s point-of-view.  This particular farmer had started to plant his new coffee trees alongside the old trees, so that when it was time to switch to the new trees for production, no time would be lost for the harvest. I am not sure of any quality issues that may arise from the planting of two trees so close together, but it did seem like a good idea and a smart way to not waste any production time on such small parcels of land. 

After the farm visit, we also visited a small local collection point owned by CCPK.  These collection points do not have wet mills, however they do accept cherry for purchase and issue receipts for payment to farmers.  Having small outposts like these ensure that all farmers who want to are able to deliver cherry to CCPK without having to travel absurdly long distances with their cherry in order to sell it.  The collection stations are a bit undeveloped, only marked by paper signs, and Annabel expressed her desire to make these more conspicuous for next season, with larger signs and t-shirts and hats for the employees to wear. 

            From the collection point, we traveled to CCPK’s newest purchase, Boloti, the future home of a new Estate coffee producing parcel of land.  The land was taken over by the government from an Indian man, who failed to pay the rent and left the land abandoned (it is not possible for foreign investors to own land outright in Tanzania).  Annabel’s family leased the rights to this land under the name CCPK to develop and hopefully have a full production in 3 years.  Right now, the land is serving as a nursery for Tudeley Estates new planting as well as a planting on Boloti in March.  They currently have 22,000 seedlings planted, with the hope of having 150,000 seedlings ready by March planting.  As I stood there, learning about the nursery project, I watched 4 women diligently sprinkle small pellets of fertilizer in each seedling pot, one by one fertilizing and watering 22,000 seedlings. 

**Interesting side-note about the seedlings:  CCPK has been encouraging better farming practices by the farmers who deliver cherry to their pulping stations.  Part of this process is providing disease resistant strains of coffee plants to farmers who normally would not have access to these plants.  Over the past 3 years, CCPK has been gifting a young coffee plant to farmers along with their payment for delivering cherry with the hopes of improving the overall quality of coffee they receive over time.  Annabel thinks that this has helped greatly, and believes that the quantity and quality of coffee will only continue to rise over time because of this program. 

After seeing the new Estate and watching some women pick the last of the coffee for the season, we set off on the bumpy (and I mean bumpy) road back to Kibo Estates.  A pretty tame day compared to the grueling roads in the Andes of South America, but much rougher driving for sure.  Now I am enjoying the late afternoon in the comfort of the cool, shaded house on Kibo estate, drinking some fresh lemonade and listening to monkeys scream in the distance. 

Fun/Interesting things that happened today:

  • Stopping on a road through the bush to let a Dust Devil blow by.  Dust Devils are scary looking.
  • I met an 80+ year old tortoise.  He growled like a dinosaur and tried to chase me.  Tortoises are faster than you might imagine.  
  • Learning that Tanzania has no domestic banking system.  To keep a checking account, there are monthly fees of about 7,000 shillings.  This is the equivalent of 3 days labor for a farmer.  Instead, cell phone companies have set up a text-for-payment program, in which dues are texted to a recipient, who can forward this text and access code along to anyone in the country to redeem for payment. 
  • There is 0% grazing for cows here. Land is too valuable, so instead cows will trim hedges and eat leftover scraps from maize harvests.
  • Farrows, water diverted from rivers for irrigation, can be privately owned. 
  • The population living literally on the slopes of Kilimanjaro is over 1 million.  These are all small parcel farmers and land owners. 
  • Even in rural East Africa, you can still eat bacon and eggs and hot coffee for breakfast (jealous, Paul?)
  • If you don’t close your window in the car fast enough, you will have to inhale dust for the duration of the dirt road.
  • It is impossible to enjoy a cold shower, even after you have been in the African sun all day.  It does feel good to wash an inch of red dirt off of your body though, no matter what the temperature of the water is.

That is all for now.  It is 5 pm here, which means it is 7 am there. Although, by the time I am able to e-mail this update, who knows what day or time it will be. In any case, have a wonderful day while I am sleeping off yet another adventure!

Sorry, no photos yet, the internet is a tad too slow!

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