Why agronomists are the heroes of Ethiopia’s coffee farmers.
Ever wondered what the secret to growing fantastic coffee is? There are lots of things that can help, such as location, weather and the skills of the farmer, of course. But that’s not all.
You can bet your last coffee bean that behind every great coffee farmer is a great agronomist.
Agronomists are experts in soil management, environmental conservation and crop production. Essentially, their job is to teach farmers how to grow high-quality coffee in greater amounts in a sustainable way. The better the coffee, the more money the farmers earn. And we’re all up for that.
It’s little wonder that coffee farmers can grow attached to their agronomist. They help them at every step, from planning their planting all the way through to harvesting.
Agronomists show farmers best farming techniques and discuss topics such as the use of fertilisers, how to compost, and the importance of picking only ripe coffee cherries in order to achieve an unforgettable taste.
They also point out the benefits of growing other crops among coffee trees, so the farmers have diversified sources of income, and explain how to prevent erosion by planting native trees and grasses.
Another really important thing they teach is business skills, such as profit and loss, and how to keep accounts.
In Ethiopia, the birthplace of Arabica coffee, agronomists have made a huge difference. Many farmers there weren’t aware of the modern farming methods. For example, most believed that if their trees were old they would always have poor yields.
So, agronomists have stepped in and showed the farmers demonstration plots where old coffee trees had been revitalised after being cut back, a technique known as ‘stumping’. They then trained the farmers how to do it themselves and now their trees are producing healthy crops of coffee cherries again, much to everyone’s delight.
With their new skills, the farmers are now producing much better coffee in higher volumes. They’re earning more than they did. This could have a very real impact on their lives. For example, agronomist Abinet Dulume, 32, from Aletawondo Woreda, told us about how some of the farmers she supports have been able to build houses with their extra profit, with some now sending their children to school, too.
At the moment, there are 105 agronomists in Ethiopia who’ve been trained by Nespresso’s partner, TechnoServe, a non-profit organisation, to teach 54,000 coffee farmers the modern ways of farming. Thirty-seven of the coffee agronomists are women, an increase since 2016.
Not only are the women helping to reduce the gender gap, many of them are now able to support their families financially, and they act as role models for other women.
One of these pioneering women is Adanech Tumsido, 27, from the Aleta Wondo district, who finds being an agronomist extremely rewarding.
“What I most enjoy is seeing farmers whose lives have been improved after I’ve given them professional training and support,” she said.
What I most enjoy is seeing farmers whose lives have been improved after I’ve given them professional training and support.