How to produce coffee in Nepal

Coffee production in Deusa, Solukhumbo

With funding and support from TGT and Eco Himal Nepal, the Deusa Agro Forestry Resource Centre (AFRC), is enabling farmers in Deusa and Waku, Solukhumbo, to produce and sell coffee. Coffee is a good crop to grow at these altitudes and once established will provide a regular extra source of income for hundreds of farmers.

coffee plant.jpg

But, coffee is not immune to the impacts of rising global temperatures and needs to be farmed in a Climate Change aware way. The main threats are invasive insect pests, drought, intense rainfall events and increased average temperatures. Adaptation is possible, and it can be done using organic pesticides and fertilisers, clever intercropping (for example, planting coffee alongside plants that hold water in soil and provide coffee with the shade from intense sunlight) and by planting new crops at slightly higher, rather than lower, altitudes.

We are working closely with Eco Himal and the Deusa AFRC to enable farmers to maximise their income and farm in a sustainable way. These are very early days and it is a long term project. We are opening conversations with stakeholders at all levels of the coffee chain (from bean to cup), who are helping us immensely already. On our recent visit to Deusa, we did some fact-finding to share with those advising us. We are publishing what we found out here too, to provide some information for those interested in how coffee is produced and traded in Nepal. Coffee could become a very important part of the mix for farmers in mountain regions and help them go beyond the perils of subsistence farming. 

How many farmers have mature coffee trees currently? 
300 in main project area, more in neighbouring districts.

On average how many productive coffee trees does each farmer currently have?

What bean are they growing? What coffee tree varieties have been planted?
Arabica - we are still trying to find out the varietal. It is fully organic.

How many new coffee trees are being grown?
8,000 mature trees currently in main project area, around 5,000 are fruiting, the other 3,000 are one year old. 

Cultivating coffee saplings in Deusa.

Cultivating coffee saplings in Deusa.

How many new coffee trees have been planted that are not yet productive?
20,000 saplings were distributed in 2016, around 50% will survive. 
Planning to distribute a further 15,000 saplings in 2018. 

How many KGs of coffee cherry have been harvested in the last crop harvest?
2,000 KGs harvested in 2017. Around 20% of cherry's were lost. 

Who bought the coffee, for how much and what did they do with it? 
It was bought by a trader in Kathmandu, he mixed them with other beans and sold them onto other traders. He bought the beans for 500 Nepali Rupee / KG and sold on for around 700 rupee /KG. 
It took the trader a long time (several months) to pay for the coffee, which created a very long time lag for the farmers before they received their share of the proceeds. 

How many KGs of coffee cherry are expected from the next harvest?
Expecting 2,500KG in next harvest.

What is the current process for picking, pulping, milling, transporting, selling, roasting etc?
- Cherries are handpicked by farmers
- They carry cherries for around 30 mins in a bamboo basket to a collection point (there are approx. 8 collection points in the main project area). 
- Collection points serve between 5 and 30 farmers
- Pulped by hand turned machine (see photo of machine attached)
- (we have funded 6 pulping machines, these are moved around the project area to collection points as and when needed)
- After pulping beans are left in a sack overnight
- Beans are hand washed next morning to remove husks and then left to dry on trays in the open air
- Moisture content is checked, but only by sound, they do not have moisture meter's yet.
- Once beans are dry, farmers carry them in Bamboo baskets to the Agro Forestry Resource Centre - depending on where the farmer lives in relation to the AFRC, this can take anything between 1 hour and 1 day. 
- AFRC weigh sacks and tag them so they can keep a record of which beans belong to which farmer.
- Before weighing AFRC carry out a basic quality check, they want unbroken beans that have no dust, no mould, no moss and no animal hair. 
- AFRC stores coffee in sacks on top floor of building
- Eco Himal (our partner NGO) transport coffee beans to Kathmandu and store them in their office. 
- It cost 57 rupees / KG to transport to Kathmandu
- There is a 'district development tax' of 5 rupee / KG that has to paid on all produce that leaves Solukhumbo. 
- There are a few small-scale roasters in Kathmandu, but most coffee is exported as parchment for roasting in Australia, New Zealand etc. 

Coffee pulping machine at Deusa AFRC

Coffee pulping machine at Deusa AFRC

How many pulping machines are there? What do they look like?
Currently six. We are hoping to fund a few more as production expands.

What sort of intercropping is happening?
Mostly banana and bamboo trees to provide shade, but also other native trees. Paulownia, Moringa, Ginger, Tumeric, Orange trees are all being tested. Plants that retain water in the soil, fix nitrogen and provide shade are favoured. If they are plants that can be farmed commercially and sustainably too all the better. 

At what altitude is the coffee being grown? 
1,000 - 1,500m 

What is the potential to upscale production, how much land is potentially available for coffee production?
In the main project area (Deusa) enough trees have been planted to treble, possibly quadruple production in the next 2-3 years. In neighbouring district (Waku) which is also part of our project area, coffee production is just starting and it has the potential to be just as productive. There are other neighbouring districts with similar capacity. So could expand production by a factor of 10 or 15 in the coming years. We are taking great care to ensure coffee is one of many plants farmed here. Biodiversity is supremely important to climate change adaptation.