Help a Farmer Stump a Coffee Tree!

A dramatic pruning of coffee all the way down to the stump is important to keep the tree producing coffee cherry. Why do so few farmers in Ethiopia do it?

Getting anyone interested in stumping is a hard sell. That goes for farmers and your local neighborhood coffee know-it-all as well. But let me try to convince you to watch a video about plant pruning!

Coffee roasters talk about the price they pay for coffee. And price is important … but productivity is perhaps more important to the success of a coffee farmer! How much will the roaster need to pay when the tree produces 50% less in a down crop cycle?

Fair price is only part of the equation for a farmer to earn a living wage. They need an adequate volume of coffee to sell as well. As a coffee tree ages, it produces less and less unless it is fed well (organic nutrients) and pruned.

The most important pruning to do is a total stumping of the tree, to about knee height, every 7-10 years. Farmers don’t want to take a tree out of production by doing this, especially in Ethiopia. But if they don’t stump the coffee tree, they will see less and less fruit to sell each harvest cycle.

My video shows a (rare) farm in Ethiopia that is part of The Stumping Project, a farmer training and support initiative operated by the NGO Technoserve, to encourage farmers to prune and stump coffee so they can remain successful! Check out the contrast between and Ethiopia farm stumping coffee, versus one that has never been stumped!

Help a Coffee Farmer, Stump a Tree!

Why are productive coffee plants so important to people’s lives?

Coffee fruit production has a biennial up-and-down cycle as the plant recovers from a year of higher fruit production, and focuses it’s limited energy on sustaining itself. (Any fruiting plant requires a ton of energy to produce)!

But this “high-crop-low-crop” cycle wreaks havoc on farmer incomes, especially in countries where coffee is the primary cash crop.

Not only does it ruin farmer incomes (think no money for school fees, no money for clothes etc etc), but it can have a devastating effect on a national economy.

Burundi is a prime example of a country producing wonderful coffee, where people are often living on absolute bare incomes. In a down year the coffee production can be 65% lower than a normal year. Not only can a farmer not buy what their family needs on 65% less income, the nation cannot fully fund its schools and health care! Coffee productivity is hugely important!

Coffee agronomists know that rejuvenating trees through stumping the main trunk is the best way to minimize the impact of the coffea arabica up-and-down fruiting cycle!

So yes, help a coffee, farmer stump a tree! (with or without the comma!)

2 Responses

  1. Does stumping apply to robusta also (re: “the coffea arabica up-and-down fruiting cycle”)? In VN here and would pass this info on to some robusta grower friends. Thanks.

    1. It’s a good question and I don’t have an answer. Most robusta farms I have been on do not appear to have used stumping, and some trees are very productive from large old trunks. That doesn’t mean it is not recommended but your comment makes me realize I have never seen stumpung with Robusta. I am sure there is some form of pruning though…

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