Although Burundi has been growing coffee for decades, great-tasting Burundian coffee arriving in the U.S. is a relatively recent development. Years of civil war and state control of the coffee industry limited farmers ability to focus on quality. Given this history, we were lucky to meet the president of the Kazoza N’Ikawa co-op, Germaine Simbayobewe, on our very first trip to the country in 2011. The farmers of Kazoza live in the Kayanza province near Kibira National Park, which has been a forest preserve for almost 100 years. Farm size is very small, just 1-2 hectares, and coffee production in the area has historically relied on chemical inputs to keep coffee trees productive.
Shortly after we started purchasing Kazoza’s coffee and selling it as Mpemba, we hosted an organic composting workshop for their members with money from our Seeds program, hoping to get them more interested in sustainable production and away from how coffee had historically been produced in the region. The Kazoza farmers and leadership took the knowledge from this workshop and ran full-steam ahead, improving the sustainability of their farming practices.
Through additional Seeds grants, Kazoza set up two nurseries for shade trees, trained farmers on pit composting, and provided 54 goats to farmers for manure production. Each of these accomplishments on their own would be a big step forward towards more sustainable coffee production, but Kazoza N’Ikawa has managed to take a giant leap by tackling all three.
For us, the farmers of Kazoza N’Ikawa have reinforced something we already knew—that certified organic farms are not the only sustainable coffee farms. We hope that someday the Kazoza co-op will pursue organic certification, but their demonstration of continuous improvement is a perfect example of what we really value about sustainable agriculture.