Our flagship direct trade program, Mocha Joe’s has been working directly with farmers in Northwest Cameroon since 2009. Through our organic program and quality improvement initiatives in the communities of Oku and Mbessa, we are working to produce the first ever specialty coffee out of this region. Additionally, we have been able to return thousands of dollars in organic and specialty quality premiums to the growers and sorters, as well as provide access to capital and infrastructure improvements in the region.
Our work with Cameroonian coffee farmers, pickers, and sorters has been geared toward yielding specialty-grade green coffee beans from the farms in the region. We have worked training sorters in the mill to carefully remove coffee defects before the beans make their way through the remainder of the production process and into the market. We have also spent time training coffee farmers, improving harvest techniques and farm-level process controls to furnish high quality coffee to the mill.
Organic certification, while providing price premiums and improving environmental and health conditions, can be an expensive and laborious process. In 2012, Mocha Joe’s founded Mocha Joe’s Organic Growers, providing inspection services, technical assistance, and market access for farmers interested in implementing organic practices in their farms. Our organic program began in the 2012-2013 harvest season with 46 certified farmers, and yielded 2.5 tons of certified Organic coffee. Today, the program produces almost 18 tons of Organic coffee.
Access to credit is a problem for coffee farmers the world over. In Cameroon, farmers have many expenses, including taxes, school fees, and Christmas celebrations, that put a great deal of financial pressure on families during the month of December. This pressure causes farmers to take out short-term loans from coffee buyers, at predatory interest rates, against their coffee crop.
As part of our program, Mocha Joe’s offers loans on up to 50% of a grower’s harvest, from September through February, at 0% interest. Farmers can pay off the loans in cash, or in coffee, the value of which is determined at the date of repayment – allowing them to retain their negotiating power. By providing farmers with access to credit at no cost at this pivotal time, we provide them the opportunity to both generate and accumulate capital.
Good coffee harvests begin with good trees. In Oku, most coffee trees are over 20 years old - yielding only 25% of a younger tree's potential. Farmers also suffer from La Roya – coffee leaf rust - and can lose up to 40% of their already stunted yields to the disease. Since beginning our nursery program in 2012, Mocha Joe’s has planted thousands of Roya-resistant seedlings in Oku. As these trees enter production, they will improve both the quantity and the quality of our partners' coffee.