Drought, heat, insects: Climate crisis threatens Tanzanian coffee farmers

Farmers who cultivate coffee in the northern Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania are bearing the brunt of climate change, which is affecting their incomes and way of life.

Damian Mtega, manager of coffee improvement at the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that rising temperatures around Mount Kilimanjaro and insect outbreaks have reduced coffee production by as much as 75 percent.

“Rising temperatures have caused drought, a rise in diseases, and the extinction of insects that pollinate coffee plants,” he explained.

According to government statistics, Tanzania is the third-largest coffee producer in Africa, producing an average of 40,000 metric tons of coffee and generating an annual revenue of $162 million.

According to Mtega, Arabica, the most profitable coffee variety, which accounts for up to 70% of Tanzania’s production, is susceptible to temperature fluctuations.

“The Arabica variety requires moderate precipitation and at least four months of dry weather in order to thrive,” he explained.

Mtega also stated that areas at lower elevations are no longer suitable for coffee farming, and that some Kilimanjaro farmers have been forced to relocate to higher ground, where temperatures remain sufficiently cool.

Vicky Massawe, who cultivates coffee on her 1-acre (0.4-hectare) farm in the undulating hills of Machame in northern Kilimanjaro, reported that bad weather has disrupted the growing cycle.

“Drought has caused us severe hardship. “Even the rain has become erratic,” she said.

Massawe, who is also the leader of a local organization that represents hundreds of small coffee farmers, stated that the region’s climate was once ideal for coffee cultivation, with stable temperatures and sufficient rainfall.

She stated that the climate has become increasingly hostile in recent decades. Rising temperatures and a delay in rainfall have a negative impact on coffee farmers.

Extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall and frequent droughts, endanger the livelihoods of numerous farmers in the region, such as Massawe.

In addition to blaming drought for damaged, twisted, or undersized beans, the farmers also complained that excessive rainfall during the crucial flowering stage had damaged the flowers even before the beans could form.

“I have lost faith in this harvest. Kilema coffee farmer Verdiana Temu has shifted her focus to bananas and vegetables to supplement her income because coffee is no longer profitable.

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