SEATTLE, Washington — In previous decades, coffee was an essential crop in Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry. The staple crop grown in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands was recognized globally for its smooth, quality taste. Coffee lovers from around the world enjoyed sipping the intricate fruity and zesty East African blends in their local coffee shops. Despite its long history of success, the Zimbabwean coffee industry plummeted in the early 2000s due to political and economic instability and climate change. Beginning in 2017, Nespresso partnered with global NGO TechnoServe to revive Zimbabwe’s once-thriving coffee industry, bring back some of the world’s best coffee and restore impoverished farmers’ economic opportunities,
Zimbabwe’s Coffee Sector
Zimbabwe was a prominent coffee producer during the 1980s, producing more than 15,000 tonnes of coffee per year and providing sustenance for more than 20,000 impoverished farmers. In 2000, under President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe forced white commercial farmers and workers off their land to reform colonial disparity. Zimbabwe’s economy and agricultural sector collapsed due to land seizures, foreign investors’ loss of interest and high inflation rates.
Impoverished smallholder farmers struggled to make a living selling their quality Arabica coffee for only $0.20 on the pound. Thus, many left the industry. Zimbabwe’s booming coffee sector, which encompassed thousands of small-scale coffee farmers, almost disappeared completely by 2016, with only 400 coffee farmers remaining.
Reviving the Industry, “Reviving Origins”
Fortunately, under the new guidance of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017, the global coffee giant Nespresso stepped in to revive Zimbabwe’s coffee industry with its Reviving Origins program. Partnered with the NGO TechnoServe, the Reviving Origins program aims to revitalize the East African coffee sector by financing TechnoServe to offer hands-on agricultural training to smallholder coffee farmers.
At the same time, Nespresso serves as the local farmers’ primary buyer and pays premium prices for their quality coffee. This arrangement allows smallholder farmers to feel financially secure and prompts them to reinvest in their farms, families and communities.
The Reviving Origins program invested in 450 small-scale Zimbabwean farmers to increase their farms’ coffee production volume while motivating other smallholder farmers to join the program. TechnoServe’s agronomists work with the farmers and provide intensive training on climate-smart soil management, crop production, processing and sustainability practices.
The program intends to adhere to sustainable farming and help Zimbabwean rural farmers revive the country’s coffee industry and improve their quality of life. Through Reviving Origins, Nespresso and TechnoServe have changed many impoverished Zimbabwean farmers’ lives and saved the world from losing one of its best coffees. In May 2019, two years after Reviving Origins started, Nespresso released the limited edition coffee “Tamuka Mu Zimbabwe” or “Awakening of Zimbabwe” in 18 different countries. The coffee sold out in just three weeks.
More Than Just Coffee
Nespresso’s Reviving Origins program made considerable strides in reviving Zimbabwe’s once-thriving coffee industry and bringing the taste of East African coffee back to countries across the globe. However, the program’s positive impact on the lives of impoverished farmers in Zimbabwe is equally applaudable. Now, in 2020, more than 2,000 farmers are working with Nespresso and producing coffee. Additionally, more farmers in Zimbabwe are returning to coffee growing because of other smallholder coffee farmers’ financial successes. Impoverished farmers in Zimbabwe can now build new homes, provide their children with education and live prosperous lives—all thanks to coffee.