The 2012 Chede coffee campaign is moving into full gear as the Muambong Centre of the national pilot project on fully washed coffee begins to deliver impressive results in terms of the quality and quantity of cherry processed so far by the ecological pulping machine installed last year. At the current pace, the Muambong Centre of this project should deliver at least 20 tonnes of fully washed Robusta coffee by mid February 2012.
Coffee farmers in Kupe Muanenguba in the South West region of Cameroon have adopted, with spontaneous enthusiasm, this radically innovative technology of processing coffee beans using a wet mill or washing station, as opposed to the traditional sun-drying process used since the start of coffee farming in the region close to 100 years ago.
For farmers usually averse to major innovations within their livelihood environments, the Muambong results achieved so far of the national pilot project on fully washed coffee should nevertheless be surprising. One reason for this unfolding success is that Chede, as proxy executing agency for the project in the South West region, enjoys unalloyed credibility within the farming community hosting the washed coffee pilot project in Kupe Muanenguba by virtue of its track record in the management of coffee campaigns and honest marketing and payment of farmers’ produce. The second reason concerns the capacity-building and awareness-raising campaigns Chede has organized to date in the pilot zone on the washed coffee project and its potential benefits to coffee farmers, including quality premiums. The third reason has to do with the quality differences the farmers themselves have observed between washed coffee, on the one hand, and sun-dried coffee, on the other. The coffee cupping workshop organized in Muambong last year by Café Africa International, one of the executing agencies of the pilot project, served to confirm those quality differences to coffee producers within the Chede village cooperative network.
Lessons deriving so far from the current campaign suggest the need for a more robust type of wet mill. The type currently installed in Muambong is somewhat fragile and of low capacity – less than 800 kg per hour, compared to a more desirable capacity of about 3 tonnes per hour. Furthermore, the new wet processing technology appears to be labour-harvest intensive because it requires that only fully ripe cherry should be plucked from coffee trees, meaning almost daily harvests, as opposed to the traditional method of harvesting both red and green cherry once or twice during the entire coffee season. In general, farmers seem to appreciate the merits of the new technology and processes, particularly with respect to the inconveniences avoided from having to dry their coffee and waiting for a month or more to receive cash for their produce compared to receiving cash upon delivery of their fresh cherry.
The overall conclusion at this stage is that the national pilot project on fully washed coffee in Cameroon is very successful so far at its Muambong Centre in the South West region. This unfolding success would justify plans for an extension phase managed by Chede and covering the entire South West region and appropriate neighbouring sites in the Moungo Division.