In 2017, we planted 1500 coffee trees at Kihembe Community Vocational Secondary School (KCVSS) as part of our commitment towards sustainability. The idea was to provide the school with a sustainable income generating source, independent of fee-paying students, which could allow the school management committee to buy essential scholastic materials, textbooks and teacher resources that would improve the quality of education delivered at the school.
Three years on, we’re delighted that the first crop of coffee is ready to be harvested later this year. We aren’t expecting a great deal, but we’re thrilled that we’re taking a step in the right direction. We decided that we wanted to grow only organic coffee and avoided all pesticides and fertilisers. While we’re content with this decision, it has resulted in a loss of some of our crop, due mainly to environmental factors such as climate change.
This summer, we struck up partnerships with Kigezi Coffee Development Academy and Kingha Coffee, both pioneering organisations working locally to improve the quality of coffee grown in Kanungu district. Our relationship with Kingha, and Andre in particular, has been truly educational. Andre visited our plantation last month and offered some feedback and instruction on how to improve our growing practice organically.
Working with Bright, he first instructed us to start ‘gap filling’ – the simple act of replacing dead coffee trees with new seeds. He also told us about the process of ‘mulching’, explaining that by utilising debris from our vegetable plantation, we can organically improve the quality of the soil around our coffee trees. Moreover, because Kihembe is negatively impacted by the effects of climate change and droughts can happen, he showed us how to dig trenches around our plants in order to retain water during dry seasons.
Andre also introduced us to different organic fertilisers and pesticides that are available on the local market and gave us an insight into best practice in regard to their use. Kingha’s coffee is absolutely delicious, and you can find out more about their work on their website. Although not currently available to buy in the UK, I understand they’re exploring opportunities to import it in the near future!
Upon reflection, we perhaps didn’t invest enough time and resources into managing the plantation throughout the first three years. However, thanks to Andre’s input, we’re in a much better place to improve the coffee and see much higher yields in seasons going forward. Once we have harvested the first crop at the end of this year, we look forward to meeting with the management committee at the school to plan how the money will be spent at the start of the next term.
Ultimately, we see this as an innovative solution for schools who lack basic resources and can improve the quality of education delivered, and we’re really excited to see what the future holds for our coffee plantation.