Coffee Lifeline / Black Earth Project

Radio 2Project Description
Radio Lifeline is a US-registered 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that provides farmers in the developing world with access to vital information that can have a significant and positive impact in their lives, those of their families, and in the communities where they live. The tools we use are designed to be low-tech, locally appropriate, and sustainable in their design. Each of our projects are devised to be both replicable and scalable, based on a foundation of collaborative partnership with industry stakeholders, universities, research institutions, and other NGO’s, in support of their individual outreach and education efforts.
Since 2005, our Coffee Lifeline project has broadcast over 425 radio programs to the coffee producing communities of Rwanda, while also reaching into parts of Uganda, Burundi, and the DRC. Earlier this year we completed the first phase of our expansion project, debuting the first Coffee Lifeline broadcasts in Kenya, through a new partnership with the Kenya Meteorological Department and its regional community radio station, Radio Kangema, located in the Murang’a district. Each weekly broadcast contains information regarding agronomic best practices, cooperative development and sustainability, climate change, early childhood, maternal health, HIV/AIDS education, nutrition, food security, economic diversification, and financial literacy. Along with a series of children’s stories featured at the close of each program.
The Coffee Lifeline project is designed to address issues stemming from information poverty in a world that is witnessing accelerated change within both its environment and through its technologies. In a world of instant communication, information has become one of the world’s most powerful forms of international currency. We believe that farmers are most able to make decisions that reflect the values and needs of their families and communities when they have access to reliable, consistent information from a variety of sources that help to address their economic as well as social development needs.
Earlier this year, Radio Lifeline launched the Black Earth Project, a two year research initiative designed to evaluate the effectiveness of biochar when used as a soil amendment by small scale coffee farmers. Biochar is produced through a process called pyrolysis, or the burning of dried biomass in a low or zero oxygen atmosphere. This process prevents combustion and the usual release of carbon dioxide, black carbon, and other greenhouse gases associated with traditional charcoal production methods. When used as a soil amendment, biochar has demonstrated the ability to effectively increase crop yields, reduce nutrient leaching, help retain moisture, reduce soil acidity, and improve surrounding water quality while significantly reducing the need for additional irrigation and fertilizer inputs. Biochar has also been cited as an effective approach to carbon sequestration, remaining stable in the soil for up to a thousand years.
The Black Earth Project is being conducted within 6 coffee cooperatives, located in each of the major coffee growing areas of Rwanda. Six Climate Kilns, made from repurposed oil drums, are being utilized to enable farmers to manufacture biochar from agricultural crop residues such as dried corn stalks, grasses, coffee pulp, rice hulls as well as cow manure, and wood chips. Eighteen test plots were planted with bush beans on March 15 and early results demonstrated yield increases in each of the plots utilizing biochar. These same plots will be used for coffee seedlings in October of this year, with application to existing coffee trees scheduled to take place in early 2014. As biochar only requires one application per plot, each Climate Kiln was supplied with a tool to make charcoal briquettes, creating another potential revenue stream for cooperatives, while also helping to decrease the rate of local deforestation.
radio 6Who Benefits from this project?
Although our projects are primarily concerned with the lives and livelihoods of coffee farmers, they also address the needs of farmer family members, as well as the many communities where farmers reside. Our Coffee Lifeline broadcasts reach more than 300,000 farmers in Rwanda, as well as an estimated 100,000 farmers in Kenya. These weekly programs provide listeners with access to information that can have a positive impact on the social, health, and economic lives of countless individuals and communities, linking them through a consistent and reliable web of information.The Black Earth Project currently benefits an estimated 2,500 producers within 6 cooperatives throughout Rwanda, while its ability to be easily replicated in most coffee growing regions around the world could impact a significant number of producer communities worldwide.
How Can I Help?
Our work relies on the willingness of diverse individuals, companies and foundations to make an investment in the future of coffee farming, helping to make it a viable way of life for the current, as well as the next, generation of coffee producers. The success of our projects depends on collaboration between a wide variety of individuals and organizations that share in the common goal of achieving a more sustainable system of global agriculture. We invite anyone willing to participate in this process, either through collaborative effort or financial contribution, to contact us at their earliest convenience.
Contact Name:     Peter Kettler
Location:     Barneveld, WI USA
Email Address:
Phone Number:     608.437.7275

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