Reviving origins in Zimbabwe
Meet Natasha and Happymore
Zimbabwe has a rich and complicated coffee history.
Although never among the largest coffee producers, the country has long produced high-quality coffee known for its deep and zesty flavors, which once contributed to over 20,000 livelihoods.
Most of this production came from Zimbabwe’s “Coffee Belt,” which runs along the lush hills of Manicaland province, on the eastern border shared by Mozambique.
But in the early 2000s, a combination of land reform, economic turmoil, and natural disasters caused coffee production to plummet. Soon, the industry was nearly defunct.
Many smallholder farmers struggled to maintain their livelihoods and ultimately switched to other crops.
But today, that has started changing.
Reviving Origins in Zimbabwe: A Program in Partnership with Nespresso
TechnoServe is working with Nespresso to help farmers in Honde Valley make Zimbabwe coffee better than ever before. As a result of improved training and processing practices, farmers are once again growing top quality coffee – and getting top prices.
And consumers are getting a unique specialty coffee called Tamuka mu Zimbabwe.
Natasha Machina, 27, and Happymore Mutamangira, 35, are one couple doing their part for the reviving industry – and for their family.
See photos from one of their typical days as they work to ensure a better life for their family through coffee production.
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Natasha, Happymore, and their three children live in a homestead in Honde Valley, where they farm the land.
After breakfast, the two older children of the family leave for school. The boy, 5, cries at having to leave his parents, and his sister, 7, comforts him on the walk there.
Natasha starts her day by washing dishes and clothes. She then harvests fresh sugar beans, which she will use in the family’s supper that evening.
Around the same time, Happymore is clearing away dead leaves from the banana plants. The family relies on these two crops as essential parts of their diets and income.
Happymore will use these banana leaves as mulch and add it to compost to nourish coffee trees on the family’s farm.
When the first part of the work day is done, the couple eat lunch together with their six-month-old. They will feed the baby maize porridge, while they have yams, avocado, and homemade bread.
The family is fortunate to have productive farmland and sufficient meals. In recent years, Zimbabwe has faced daunting food security challenges as a drought, a cyclone, and then COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the country’s food system.
As a result of these crises, most farmers have turned to cash crops such as avocados, bananas, sugar beans, tomatoes, and leafy vegetables that they sell to buy staples like maize.
In addition, when farmers receive payments from Nespresso, they’re given the option to prioritize the different needs of their family, not being bound by production of a specific crop.
Working with farmers on the training program, Reviving Origins, in Zimbabwe can also improve farmers’ other crops and bolster their food security. TechnoServe advises farmers on techniques such as intercropping and improved agronomic practices that apply to a variety of food crops in order to support food security for the farmers.
You you can help support smallholder farmers like Natasha and Happymore:
Lunch finished, the couple returns to work. TechnoServe farmer trainer Tafadzwa Nyakuchena – himself a local coffee farmer – pays a visit to offer hands-on agronomy assistance.
Tafadzwa demonstrates to Happymore how to properly mulch new coffee trees, which prevents weed growth and maintains soil moisture. This guidance is part of TechnoServe’s climate-smart agronomy training, which helps farmers protect their crops against unfavorable weather.
How Climate-Smart Techniques Help Coffee Farmers in Zimbabwe Earn a Living Income
Elsewhere on the farm, Natasha waters a pile of compost collected by Happymore, which speeds up the decomposition process. The couple learned from TechnoServe how to create natural compost from material on their own land, which helps fertilize their crops, including coffee.
Happymore heads out to weed the family’s sugar bean plants after working with Tafadzwa on his coffee trees.
Natasha and Happymore take this training seriously, because it can result in immensely improved yields.
Read more about how TechnoServe’s agricultural work promotes environmental sustainability.
When the field work is done, the couple wait for their two older children to return home from school for the day.
When the children return, the daughter is proud to share that she read some cards and wrote some sentences in school that day. Happymore inquires how her brother fared after his tearful departure that morning. In a report familiar to many parents, the daughter replies that he was just fine once he arrived at school.
The children change from their school uniforms and enjoy an after-school snack. The older children now home from school, Natasha sits with her daughter while preparing the evening meal, and they chat more about her school day.
That night, the family will eat together and get ready for bed. Ahead of them is a new day – for their family, and, they hope, for the Zimbabwe coffee industry.
Around the world, climate change is making it more difficult for smallholder farmers to grow coffee. Take our quiz to find out what kind of coffee fits you best, then learn how TechnoServe is helping preserve this coffee through improving farmers’ resilience to climate threats.