This article was written by CNFA.
Name: John Casazza
Current title/profession: Agribusiness management consultant, Alumni Association President at the College of Nautral Resources
Current hometown: San Francisco, California
Areas of expertise: Agribusiness, strategic planning
Name of project: Southern Africa Farmer-to-Farmer Program
Location of the project: Malawi
Organization that sent the volunteer: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA)
There is a high demand for organic coffee in the world, and a small cooperative in Malawi called Ntchisi East Coffee Growers Cooperative, is roasting the competition.
Growing organic coffee in Malawi has not always been easy. In the 1980’s, there was no international or domestic market for coffee. During this time period, no coffee was grown in Malawi. Later, a group reintroduced coffee growing with the Total Land Care (TLC) project. The project that left farmers with the knowledge on how to grow coffee, but not how to grow organic or climate smart coffee.
Ntchisi East Coffee Growers Cooperative Society Limited is a group of coffee farmers. They were trained by TLC in 2009, and became formally registered in 2011.
Ntchisi wanted to grow coffee that did not negatively impact the environment with chemicals. The leaders of Ntchisi encouraged its farmers to consider growing organic coffee. Ntchisi members went to CNFA’s office in Lilongwe, Malawi for help on growing organic coffee.
In 2016, John Casazza trained the farmers on organic coffee farming and how to improve their pests and diseases control - especially towards coffee white stem borers. The white stem borers attack coffee plants everywhere, including Malawi. They can easily destroy 50% of the production in a field. Mr. Casazza teaches organic coffee growing all over the world and encounters these types of beetle infestations in other locations as well. Mr. Casazza started his training with visiting all the Ntchisi’s farms and addressing their questions in their own fields. He trained them on how to decrease and even control a coffee white stem borer infestation organically.
According to Mr. Casazza, “They took my training and applied it to their farms. They were well organized and they all showed up every day and were eager to participate.”
After the training, the farmers have also almost eradicated coffee white stem borers in their fields. Before the training, the cooperative harvested 44,564.5 kilograms of coffee beans. The harvest directly after the training, they harvested 63,086 kilograms, which equals $113,554.80 in profits. This year, they are on track to have their largest amount of coffee beans for sale.
During the 2016 growing season, the farmers applied Mr. Casazza’s trainings. Now, almost sixty percent of the farmers are making organic manure, pruning and mulching their coffee trees, this is quite comparable to the “one or two of the farmers who were in training to learn about organic farming practices before I arrived,” according Mr. Casazza.
“This year farmers will make more profits, thanks to CNFA training through John Casazza” said Harrison Brown Chikadza, the Coordinator for Ntchisi East Coffee Growers Cooperative Society Limited.