Arguably, the best-quality Arabica coffee on earth grows in East Africa’s volcanic soils—coffee so good, it is often blended with lesser beans to boost their favor. But, this mattered little to Kenyan farmers, as declining profitability and the collapse of many coffee enterprises had led to increased reliance on unsustainable livelihood practices and mounting pressure on the forests surrounding Mt. Kenya.
African Wildlife Foundation began working in partnership with the Starbucks Coffee Co. in 2004 to enhance sustainable coffee livelihoods and reduce deforestation in Northern Kenya. For the people of the Samburu Heartland, growing and marketing coffee in an international marketplace is a chance to secure a better livelihood, slow the destruction of the area forests, secure critical watersheds, protect elephant corridors, and reduce human-wildlife conflict.
After implementing Starbucks farming practices, one coffee farmer, John Kibocha, increased his yield from 148 kilograms to 715 kilograms in just two years, and human-wildlife conflict has decreased—elephants don’t like java, so the coffee plants create a valuable buffer zone between movement corridors and food crops.
The partnership directly benefited the lives and incomes of 7,000 coffee growers who participated in the six-year project. More importantly, as this partnership drew to a close, sustainable agriculture had led to a new market of well-trained and knowledgeable coffee farmers who also understood the value of conservation to long-term agricultural success.
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