On a Tuesday morning on the slopes of Pare Mountains in Tanzania’s Same District, group of about 20 people are gathered at Edson Amani’s home where a woman is taking them through some charts.
One would easily mistake them for members of a merry-go-round group. It is until you listen to them that you realise that these are not your usual chama members.
They are some coffee farmers trying to figure out on gender balance in this sector in a bid to boost both production and earnings from the crop.
Here, and like in most parts of Kenya, coffee has been branded a “male crop” controlled by men. Women work in the farms while men receive the paycheque.
In the gathering, one of the conveners takes coffee farmers through a drawing that shows a five-year plan.
It is a sample visual plan of a coffee farmer, showing the joint plans of a couple, and what they would want to achieve in that duration.
The visualised plan has three phases: the vision is what a couple would want to achieve, vision journey is the order of these things according to priority, and the action is details of what the couples have to do to achieve their vision.
“This couple would want to build a permanent house in five years. The man’s income is from coffee farming while the wife earns from women groups and her small-scale horticulture farming,” says the leader.
She goes ahead to show how a couple can jointly plan for other things if they put their efforts together, specifically in coffee farming.
After this presentation, some of these members present a skit.
The main actors are a couple, in which a woman asks her husband for money to visit her sick sister. However, she secretly spends the money on purchasing land.
But, apparently, it was only through telling a lie that she would access her husband’s coffee proceeds.
Until four years ago, Amani and his wife Happy Jastine in whose home the gathering is taking place, were enemies in matters of coffee farming.
“I would tender for only a small portion of my two-acre coffee plantation, and my wife would never assist me in any way,” says Amani.
However, during the coffee picking season, Happy would steal berries from her husband’s plantation and selfishly sell to brokers.
This frustrated Amani so much that he turned to alcoholism and abandoned his duties as a father and family provider.
However, through a programme dubbed Gender Action Learning System (Gals), the couple has since learnt to co-operate in coffee production.
An initiative of Hivos East Africa, Gals aims at mainstreaming gender balance by enhancing equal participation of both men and women in the coffee sector.
In a few weeks’ time, coffee harvesting will commence in this area.
Some berries at this couple’s farm are already red.
But Happy will not “steal” as she used to. Instead, the couple has been budgeting together and planning for the earnings.
From the two acres of coffee, Amani used to harvest between 50-50 kilos of coffee. But the yield, he says has since increased to between 200-250 kilogrammes.
Motivated by the increased yields, they have since planted 400 more coffee trees in their farm in a bid to increase production.
The couple sells their coffee through Vuasu Cooperative Union earning Tsh3,000 (about Ksh150) per kilogramme.
Another farmer, Clifford Elewa, had for nine years played a hide and seek game with police, having been a miraa farmer and supplier in Dar es Salaam.
Unlike in Kenya, miraa farming is illegal in Tanzania. But Elewa would risk arrest and many times bribe his way to farming and selling the crop.
“Though I would even make Tsh10m (about Ksh500,000) per year from khat, I spent most of it bribing police,” he says.
Besides, he adds, he now has more time with his family and can proudly show what he does for a living.
Elewa has since destroyed all the miraa trees and replaced them with coffee.
As he waits for them to mature though, he has revived two acres of coffee which he inherited from his parents but he had neglected.
Last season, he says, he harvested 220 kilos earning Tsh660,000 (approximately Ksh33,000).
Hivos East Africa Country Coordinator for Tanzania Charles Kaigwa says there would be much to celebrate if families in Tanzania and East Africa in general joined hands in agribusiness at both working and earning levels.
The programme, he adds, targets 90,000 smallholder coffee farmers in the three districts of Same, Mwanga and Kilimanjaro.
The Gals apprThe program, he adds, targets 90,000 smallholder coffee farmers in the three districts of Same, Mwanga and Kilimanjaro.oach of using illustrative drawings, music and drama to promote all-inclusive coffee production helps in de-mystifying coffee as a “male crop”.
It aims at increasing the quality and quantity of coffee as well as ensuring involvement of women and youth in growing and selling of this cash crop.
Gals, Kaigwa says, aims at eradicating poverty, improving lives and enhancing family unity through coffee farming.
Grace Murungi, a Gender officer at Taylor Winch – a coffee exporting company based in Moshi, says women would be motivated to willingly work in coffee fields if they have a say in the earnings.
“If men dominate in planning for earnings from coffee, then women, in protest and in pursuit of financial independence, opt to tender for crops from whose earnings they can control,” says Grace.
However, she adds, gender balancing in the coffee sector would be ideal and effective not only in Tanzania, but in East Africa as a whole.