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The Mbinga Shade and Income Diversity Project

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Project Background

The modern people of Mbinga are descendants of the Ngoni, who farmed and fought their way up from Southern Africa, through Mozambique and Malawi; some settled as they went, others eventually reached Southern Tanzania. Natural conditions and a history of farming set the scene for Mbinga to become an important coffee region of Tanzania. By 2000 Mbinga was producing 6,000 MT of coffee and was the country’s 4th largest coffee region. By 2018/19 production had grown to an impressive 17,000 MT, placing Mbinga in poll position. 

This meteoric rise was due to: 

  • Soil. The land had not been heavily farmed meaning that soil nutrients still allowed for productive coffee farming in the absence of inputs.
  • Water. Mbinga has traditionally had plenty of water, it is common to find natural springs in the hills of the Ruvuma countryside.
  • Space. Mbinga has not traditionally been heavily populated; as such the small holdings are a little larger than in other parts of East Africa, providing some form of economy of scale.
  • Investment. Kilicafe spent years developing post-harvest processing knowledge and industry followed on by building the international demand for these improved coffees.

The increase in coffee production is a direct result of the better economic returns offered by coffee over other rival cash crops. These returns were made possible by markets that offered good prices and the environment that provided satisfactory yields. 

How can we make a difference?

Whilst certified systems have helped guide Mbinga’s coffee development, 85% of farms are still not in a certified supply chain. Mbinga’s production has almost tripled in less than two decades. The area that accommodated this expansion was often forest, and trees that would have provided vital shade were often felled, with farmers suspecting them to be absorbing too much water from the soil. 

Populations that have flourished from coffee farming are now taking over new areas of land for cultivation.

Mbinga is now starting to feel the effects of poor agronomy and a more volatile / less predictable climate. Springs that traditionally have flowed all year round have become seasonal. Indigenous trees have disappeared at an alarming rate. Wildlife has suffered. Soil health has deteriorated. 

The water and soil that were the foundation of Mbinga’s coffee revolution are deteriorating, good farming and environmental stewardship has never been more paramount.


What have we done

Kijani Hai (CTCS’s fully owned Tanzania Export company) has put together a schedule to plant trees amongst our partnered farmer groups. Kijani Hai is establishing a seedling nursery where the trees can be supported until they are in good condition to be distributed. Our goal is to distribute at least 2 trees per year to each of our 6,000 farmers with whom we work. 

kijani hai

We are focusing on Avocado, Macadamia, Moringa, Coffee, Grevillea and Arabica trees. Avocado, Macadamia and Moringa all act as shade trees that offer income diversity. Grevillea is a fast-growing effective shade tree commonly used in coffee farms through-out East Africa.  Shade trees are an important part of canopy development and reforestation designed to rebuild wildlife habitats and support soil health. 

Our Nursery progress is shown below

Tree Varietal


Seedlings Germinated

Still on Seed bed

Transferred to tubes



Shade, income diversity












Shade, income diversity






Shade, income diversity, indigenous












Out of an initial 23,000 seedlings there have been reported losses of 531 seeds; we expect this figure to grow to around 3-5,000 seedlings – this mainly due to the 2000 Moringa seeds that are not germinating well, those that do germinate are not surviving.

We anticipate that around 18-20,000 seeds will be available to plant in the field, spread across our 1600 farmers within the cooperatives that we are working with. This will come to around 12.5 trees per farmer. 

According to the Rainforest Alliance standard 28 shade trees per acre will shade / reforest the area. If we manage to plant all 20,000 trees we will end up providing shade to 500 acres.


Next Steps

Transportation and Planting in the Field. 

Seedlings will be distributed at the beginning of November just prior to the beginning of the long rains. 

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