How is the training conducted?
Project regions: Both organizations have selected their own program regions by considering the density of coffee smallholders and their knowledge level about coffee agronomy practices.
Mobilization & training set up: With the support of the local government and village leaders, coffee farmers are informed about the program. Interested coffee farming households then form farmer groups of 20-30 people, in which the training is delivered. Each farmer group selects a leader who is responsible for the respective group.
Both programs follow their own approaches. At the same time, they do share common themes and key characteristics as outlined below:
Field-based, practical, and participatory
Training sessions are held on the coffee farm.
Farmers get to practice the skills immediately.
Each farmer group has its own trial-/demo plot to demonstrate the effects of applying GAPs.
Reinforcement and repetition in line with the coffee calendar
Trainings are held once per month
Topics are chosen according to the coffee calendar in order to be relevant to farmers.
Topics are repeated on a regular basis to reinforce adoption.
Strong involvement of the local community
Trainers are recruited from the local community.
They get trained on content and didactics by experienced staff.
Trainings are backstopped by experienced agronomists to ensure quality.
What do the trainings cover?
UCAT focuses on Good Agricultural Practices and basic business skills. Both implementing partners have developed their own proprietary materials incorporating the best practices from the Robusta Coffee Handbook, developed and published by UCDA.
The order of topics follows the coffee calendar and the specific needs of coffee trees in each crop phase. Training typically starts with rejuvenation, right after harvest.
Trainings are based on a careful assessment of local needs. For example, fertilizer recommendations are based on a soil & leaf analysis in program regions. (Detailed results are available here.)
Some examples of the training topics taken from the Robusta Coffee Handbook.
Soil & water conservation
Soil and water conservation measures are important in minimising loss of soil fertility through erosion and the retaining moisture for the coffee, especially in the dry periods. Exemplary practices to conserve soil and water are:
Rainwater harvesting pits
Terracing along contours
Construction of water retention bands
Planting of cover crops and soil retention grass
Stumping coffee is a practice of selecting and cutting down elderly and unproductive stems existing on a bush. It is done to rejuvenate/renew the stem cycle by enabling the entire tree stump develop young vigorous shoots which make the coffee tree produce more cherries once again.
Pruning & desuckering
Pruning is the removal of broken, dead, unproductive, aged, diseased and pest damaged stems. It is an essential task for maintaining strong and healthy coffee trees. Pruning is done to create well- structured, healthy trees that give good cherry yields over the productive cycle.
De-suckering is a type of pruning where numerous shoots are removed from coffee trees. De-suckering is done to check excessive growth to avoid competition from many suckers, open up the canopy, enhance productivity and to achieve less disease and pest incidences.
Pests and disease control
Pests and diseases affect the health of the coffee plants, which further leads into quality deterioration, quantity loss and eventually reduced economic return to the farmer.
Control strategies against pest should be based on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system. IPM is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information with available pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment.
Mulching is the covering of the topsoil between crop rows and columns and around coffee trees with dried or rotten plant residues such as dried grass, maize stalks and compost manure.
Mulching brings several advantages, among others:
Improving the yield by facilitating better regulation of moisture levels in the soil, thereby increasing soil moisture retention and improving surface water infiltration into the soil.
Reducing the watering requirements, thereby minimizing costs of irrigation.
Harvesting is one of the critical steps within the coffee value chain where quality of coffee can be either compromised or maintained. Harvesting is the process of picking the ripened fruit (berries) from the coffee trees. Coffee berries ripen progressively and may be picked at intervals of 10-15 days over a period of several months.
Coffee Farming as a Business
Coffee farming as a business in order to maximize profit. It should be driven by standard production and manufacturing practices aimed at sustaining economic output and product quality. The practices should be timely, accurate and efficient in resource utilization.
Routine maintenance of financial and operational records is therefore crucial in monitoring the performance of the business.
Source: Robusta Coffee Handbook, developed and published by UCDA.