Sweet Maria’s supports an Ethiopian coffee initiative to encourage farmers to regenerate their trees by pruning them down to a stump. Here’s why that matters …
“Stumping” a coffee tree doesn’t sound like a transformative act. But in reality of a coffee tree is not pruned, and occasionally pruned down to a knee-high stump, it tends to produce less and less coffee.
In Ethiopia, heavy pruning coffee is not popular. ANY pruning of coffee is not popular! The reason is clean: To a coffee farmer, pruning the tree means losing a year of production. Pruned trees produce less for the first year, it’s true. But if you don’t stump coffee, the tree produces less herbaceous growth where most of the coffee fruit is set, and becomes a huge, rangey inefficient plant in general.
The Stumping Project was initiated by Falcon coffee and Technoserve to compensate farmers for the lost harvest, encouraging them to stump their coffee farms in a systematic way, while providing tools and technical support. Here are some first hand accounts collected by the Technoserve agronomists of how the project has assisted some of the 198 farmers who are participating.
(These quotes were recorded after the farmers received new tools to help perform stumping correctly. If stumping is done poorly or with a machete, the tree stump can rot, and truly damage the future of the plant. So proper tools and training really matter to rejuvenate coffee trees!) – Thompson
Location: Shebedino woreda, Taremesa kebele
Farming is the main livelihood for Behailu Tesfaye, 25, a farmer in Shebedino woreda, Taremesa kebele. He owns 0.5 hectares of land (a little over one acre), a gift from his grandmother five years ago. He is currently unmarried and lives with his grandmother. He practices mixed agriculture on the farm. His crops include enset (false banana), vegetables, and coffee – his main source of income.
After attending Farmer Field College and receiving coffee agronomy best practice training from experienced TechnoServe trainers, Behailu was encouraged to apply his new skills and knowledge to his farm.
He began a rejuvenation process by stumping 68 old coffee trees, and was honoured as one of the most successful farmers in his farm college group. He was recognised for being progressive and for adopting good agricultural practices (GAPs).
Behailu received three farm tools: pruning shears, a bow saw, and a spare bow saw blade. Behailu says:
“I wanted to improve my yields but did not know how. Since the moment I joined TechnoServe, I have felt different. The empowerment, encouragement and the tools I have received has led me to where I am today.
“I am so excited for the tools I received because I stumped my coffee trees. I am proud to be a coffee farmer, and the tools will help me to achieve my goal to implement everything I have learned about coffee production with the TechnoServe Farm College. I want to applyeverything that I have learned to my farm so that I do not get left behind by other growers in my cohort. My old coffee trees were very unproductive with declining yields. The stumped coffee trees are now slowly bearing fruits and growing more leaves. In the coming harvest seasons I hope I can get a better yield from the stumped farm, and this will allow me to achieve my goal of marriage.
“There is no doubt about the knowledge I received, so in the coming two years I have a plan to stump at least 500 old coffee trees and plant new coffee seedlings between stumped coffee trees in the open areas. I am now keeping detailed farm records and expect to greatly increase my income from my farm in the next five years compared to the last five years.”
Location: Dale woreda, Gidamo kebele
Meseret Tilahun is one of the coffee farmers who benefited from The Stumping Project in the Dale woreda, Gidamo kebele, Hanafa focal farmer group. She is 40 years old and has six children. Two of her children are married and the others, aged between 9 and 16, all live with her. Her husband passed away 10 years ago and she manages her coffee farm so that she can take care of her children.
She owns a total of 0.5 hectares of land, half of which is covered by coffee trees. On the remaining land,she grows enset (false bananas), banana, avocados, taro, and maize. Meseret actively attended all the TechnoServe monthly training modules and also received on-farm technical support. She readily adopted most of the advised best practices on her coffee farm. These included stumping, composting, intercropping, sucker selection, weeding, and planting.
Meseret says, “I previously had a chance to attend some coffee management training at the cooperative level, but the training is not continuous, it is more theoretical, and not the full package I need to develop my farm. There is no follow-up at all and I could not easily understand how to address my problems and improve my farm productivity and income.”
After attending TechnoServe’s first stumping training session, she stumped 100 coffee trees in 2020 and managed the stumped coffee trees very well. As a result the stumped trees bloomed within a year. The performance of the stumped trees inspired her to stump an additional 80 coffee trees in 2021. She also planted coffee seedlings to replace unproductive diseased trees.
‘’I am surprised with the growth of my stumped trees, and the newly planted coffee seedlings are also growing very well.
‘’When I heard of the The Stumping Project campaign, it gave me the morale to rejuvenate the remaining 215 old coffee trees. Currently I have around 750 trees stumped. These now have dark green leaves, healthy and productive new branches, and are free from weeds and diseases.
“The training and the design I followed to stump and replant my coffee trees has brought me a good opportunity in my life, and I have been blessed that TechnoServe and Falcon have awarded me four types of farm tools: a wheelbarrow, pruning shear, bow saw handle and spare bow saw blade. I couldn’t have dreamed of buying a wheelbarrow, since I cannot easily afford tools. Now I am so happy with the awards. They encourage me to work hard and to be a model women farmer in my community, which I have always wanted to be. With your help I have become this, and am able to help other women farmers, who can borrow my tools, and I can share my knowledge with them. I am proud of this, and my children are proud of me too.
‘’I am so happy to be part of this project and to attend life-changing training. For sure my income will increase after a few years, and this will take care of my children’s needs and desires.’’
Location: Shebedino woreda, Dilla-Afarara kebele
Kayima Kebede is a typical smallholder farmer in this area, having a total of 0.75 hectares (nearly two acres) of land, of which 0.5 hectares (just over one acre) is devoted to coffee. He is from the Alaso – obito Focal Farmer Group, Dilla Afarara village, Shebedino district.
Kayima is 45 years old and married to Aster Derese. They have three children – a daughter and two sons. Their eldest child is 22 and is studying at Hawassa University, and the youngest, a 12 year old, attends elementary school.
Coffee is the main source of income for his family, although he also grows banana and enset (false banana). After receiving agronomy training in 2020 and 2021, Kayima decided to adopt most of the recommended best practices to ensure better coffee yields. In 2021, he stumped 600 old trees, and a further 104 in 2022. He also built a compost pit and applied compost around the trees on the stumped field. He practiced sucker selection, weeded the field properly, and intercropped with haricot beans to boost income and household nutrition.
“I was attracted to coffee farming during childhood and started coffee farming as a child by helping my parents. After seeing my father and other members of my family growing coffee for their livelihood, I decided to do so too. My parents gave me the farm as a wedding gift. Gradually my interest grew, and I developed the farm by adding more and more crops. But I lacked the knowledge and skills to make the most of my farm and hard work.
“In recent years I lost hope with my coffee trees. I could not produce a good harvest in spite of my hard work and was struggling to make ends meet. It is hard to imagine that my family relied on the income from the production of the coffee trees for food, health care, and education. I was desperately looking for new opportunities to replace coffee trees with other crops in order to boost my income to meet my family’s basic needs.
“It was at this time that I met with TechnoServe staff and agreed to join the training group in my village. When TechnoServe came to our kebele and introduced agronomy best practices I was excited to take part because I realised that my past farming system was not working well. This could be my chance to understand how to boost my coffee production and income so that I could take proper care of my family.
“The various training programmes I attended and the advisory support from the project staff, along with my visits to the demonstration plot, helped me to update my knowledge and give me the confidence and skills to adopt new, improved techniques for increasing
the productivity of my coffee farm. Since applying the good practices, such as stumping my coffee trees, I can see improvements in my coffee productivity. This has motivated me to manage and expand my farm in a better way in the future.
“Even if I lose yields from the stumped trees temporarily, the the new suckers look promising and indicate that I can harvest double the yields or more in the near future. The good practices I applied on the non-stumped trees enabled me to harvest 500 kg of red cherries in 2022, which was much better than my yield in 2021 of only 300kg.
“I would like my coffee farm to be a model that the community can learn from. I am proud of my coffee farm, and it gives me good hope for the future to improve my family living standards. The tools I received gave me the motivation to think of a bigger dream for my coffee farming business, and I feel that this has helped me improve the quality of my coffee and helped my family have a better life.”
Location: Shebedino woreda, Dilla-Afarara kebele
Zinash Mulatu lives in Shebedino district, Dilla-Afarara kebele, Alaso-Laga, and is a member of the Focal Farmer Group. She is 45 years old and has three children, who attend university and high school. Since her husband died three years ago, she took full charge of managing the coffee farm and caring for her family. She owns a 0.75 hectares (roughly 2 acres) of land, around two-thirds of which is devoted to coffee farming.
Though she diversifies with other crops such as banana and enset (false banana, a staple food for the community), coffee is the main source of income for the family. As Zinash explains, “Coffee is the most important crop of all, because coffee cultivation is more profitable compared to other crops.”
Zinash’s main challenges were to provide food, health care, and education for her family. “Because of my traditional farming system, some of my coffee trees were too old, which meant they were out of production,” she says. “Fortunately, I had the chance to attend the TechnoServe Farm College training on coffee best practices, and I actively participated in the programme. I am so happy.’
Zinash learned about stumping, composting, tree nutrients, coffee planting, weeding, mulching, shade management, and business skills, as part of the standard TechnoServe Coffee Farm College curriculum.
After the training, she applied most of the coffee agronomy best practices she had learned. In 2020, she stumped 50 trees, and stumped an additional 50 the following year. This year, she was confident enough to stump another 101 old trees. She also applied other good agricultural practices to nourish the stumped trees, such as intercropping them with beans, applying compost to them, and regularly practising ring weeding on her coffee farm. In addition to the technical advice and encouragement she received from the experienced agronomists, Zinash’s enthusiastic and hardworking nature has contributed to her success.
“At the beginning of the training, when the agronomist taught me that the agronomy training creates the opportunity to develop my economic empowerment, I was doubtful about how this could work. But after a few months of training participation, I felt that the training would bring an improvement in my coffee farm and lifestyle.
‘’Honestly speaking, the current performance of my coffee farm shows promise that I will get higher profits from my farm in the near future, and these signs drive me to invest what I have and expand my coffee farm.
“The right decision made to stump my coffee trees has brought me a reward of four types of farm tools: a wheelbarrow, pruning shears, a bow saw handle, and a saw blade. The opportunity I got through the support from TechnoServe was a miracle for me, just like winning a lottery.
‘’My energy will be strengthened by the rewards, and the fruits of my farm will be beautiful.’’