Coffee cultivation gaining in popularity in hill districts of Bangladesh

Rafiqul Islam
Thursday, September 21st, 2017


 

Immanuel Bawn, an ethnic farmer of Bethel Para under Ruma Upazila in Bandarban, did not think that he would see such a huge demand for coffee saplings from farmers when he prepared a coffee seedbed last year to grow coffee saplings.

 

Immanuel got motivated to establish coffee nurseries after visiting coffee farms in Nepal with some members of the Bethel Para Coffee Farmers’ Association and taking part in a hands-on training conducted by coffee experts from Helvetas-Nepal in Bandarban. The exposure visit to Nepal and the training in Bandarban were organized by the European Union-funded Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalaya (Himalica) initiative.

 

“I sold about 5,000 saplings of coffee last year, which helped increase my household income,” Immanuel said with a smile.

 

Immanuel said there are 13 nurseries in Bethel Para where coffee saplings are being commercially produced. “About 40,000-50,000 coffee saplings were sold from these nurseries last year. And we hope we can sell more than 70,000 saplings this year. We can sell a coffee sapling at Tk 20–25, ”  he said while nursing his coffee sapling field located near his home.

 

The coffee saplings they produced are going to different areas of hilly districts – Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati – since hilly farmers are showing a high level of interest to introduce cash crops like coffee aiming to help build their resilience to natural disasters like flash flood.

Immanuel said he is not only producing coffee saplings, but also cultivating coffee to grow the cash crop commercially. “We planted coffee trees at our homes in the past to meet household demand as the Bawm community drinks it daily. Now we are cultivating coffee commercially with the support from Himalica initiative,” he added.

 

Coffee was not commercially produced in Bangladesh in the past, but now the scenario has been changing gradually here. Coffee cultivation is gaining in popularity in the Chittagong Hill Tracts recently while many hilly framers have already introduced coffee on a small scale.

 

A pilot project under the Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica) Initiative of the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is providing support to the farmers of Ruma Upazila to cultivate coffee in hills. The Himalica initiative aims to support poor and vulnerable mountain communities in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) to improve livelihoods in the context of socioeconomic and climate change, and the conservation of ecosystem services through active regional cooperation. Focus of Himalica is development of rural livelihoods through promoting climate resilient practices. Income diversification, enterprise development, skills/capacity development, institutional strengthening, and demonstration of climate smart technologies are key intervention areas.

 

Himalica Project’s agriculture officer Aung Shew Marma said there are 30 families in Bethel Para that are currently cultivating coffee. “We helped the farmers of these ethnic families form a coffee farmers association, named ‘Bethel Para Coffee Farmers’ Association’. And now we are providing technical support to the coffee association to expand coffee farming there and improve the livelihood of local people,” he added.

 

Than Mawi Bawn, President of Bethel Para Coffee Farmers’ Association, said the main aim of the association is to encourage local famers to cultivate coffee and assist them so that they can make a profit by growing coffee commercially.

 

When some coffee association members visited Nepal to learn about coffee production and marketing, they also brought a coffee processing machine from there.

 

Mawi Bawn said the coffee processing machine will be installed at the association’s office before the coffee harvesting season starts this year so that farmers can process their coffee to make them ready for markets.

 

Despite coffee cultivation gaining in popularity in hill districts of Bangladesh, experts say creating a market linkage for coffee is a big challenge for the future. But, Himalica Initiative has already signed an agreement with North End Coffee Roasters, a popular coffee shop in Dhaka, to help market it. Meanwhile, the North End Coffee Roasters has started sourcing coffee from local coffee farmers, introducing it in market as ‘Hill Tracts Blend’.

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