Five Senses are incredibly proud to share the story of Communal Shamba, a close collaboration between quality-focused farmers and an innovative Tanzanian couple that is yielding delicious results. Through their efforts, Communal Shamba has lifted Tanzania’s Songwe region out of commodity, seeing a 300% increase in specialty export. And with their newfound specialty premiums, the collective has been able to fund critical, community-led education and health initiatives.
Like every good superhero backstory, Communal Shamba came about through a chance encounter with something extraordinary. Two homegrown Tanzanians, Keremba Warioba and Dr Mkunde Chachage, who had spent the last 10 years working and studying in Melbourne, stumbled into one of our Curated Cupping events. While their family back home grew coffee, they had virtually no coffee experience—but they had a strong passion for agriculture and social impact.
Kerembe’s eyes were opened to the possibility of specialty. “I knew my focus was going to be in agriculture and especially for this region, it was going to be coffee,” he says. “I wanted to be as close as possible to the market to cut out the middleman and all that.”
After quite a few discussions, we were inspired to offer support in getting their fledgling business off the ground. In fact, we went all in and committed to purchasing their first harvest, before tasting it (which in 2017 was a small yet significant 1,000 kilos). And it tasted awesome. In 2018, they produced 30,000 kilos and it tasted even better.
Local growers have begun to get the gist of what Communal Shamba is up to and want to get on board and now more than five harvests in, the collective is bringing global recognition and funds into a community historically mired in untraceable, commercial coffee. The partnership allows both farmers and the roaster to share the risk associated with producing high-quality coffee—while seeing tangible returns for the community.
And much like Five Senses, Communal Shamba is committed to making it work as a business, and as a community-building project. Backed by Dr Chachage’s medical know-how, funds from the coffee program are being directed towards much-needed local health clinic support. Great coffee and positive impact? That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning!
In 2018, Dr Mkunde Chachage earned double recognition as ‘Best Scientist in Tanzania’ by the National Institute For Medical Research (NIMR) and ‘Best Research Scientist’ at her research centre for her continuous effort to find permanent solutions for HIV, TB and co-infections.
“When we set up the business we decided upfront it wouldn’t be just a normal business model; we would have a responsibility to not only take but also leave some footprint on the communities we work with,” Dr Chachage explains.
Five Senses on the Ground.
Mid Harvest 2018 and Five Senses visited Communal Shamba and the Mkulima Kwanza co-op, the first-ever coffee buyers they’d met. Gathered around the sorting tables, we naturally began to talk about the ripeness of the cherries laid in front of us. These were some of the first conversations about selective picking they’d ever had, but the Mkulima Kwanza farmers immediately took to action and the very next day we were proudly shown bulging bag after bag of pristine, ripe cherries. The results of this selective picking—aptly named Kipenzi or ‘Beloved’ in Swahili—are delicious. This is the kind of coffee we’re super proud of, delivering tasty brews and great results on the livelihoods of coffee growers in the region.
Return to Australia.
This takes us to MICE 2019, where Keremba joined us to chat all things, Communal Shamba. To be drinking a tasting flight of ultra-small lot coffees, while casually chatting to the guy who made it happen, is an uncommon experience in the greater specialty coffee world. With so much love flying around the stand for the work Communal Shamba does, and with 20% of all coffee sold at the stand going to help build a local health clinic, we’re looking forward to a happy, healthy & delicious future in Tanzania!