Coffee and Coups in Burundi

Quick link: The Coup in the Coffee Fields

A few weeks ago I wrote for Babble about Kristy and Ben Carlson, focused on the choices Kristy made as a mother during crisis. This week at EthnoTraveler I share a bit more of their coffee story and the challenges they face in getting beans out of the country after a coup. They are now back in Burundi, with their beautiful newborn daughter and two boys, pressing on.

Thanks again to Kristy for her gorgeous photos and her willingness to share their story. Be sure to check out the Long Miles Coffee Project website. I love all of it and find their family manifesto especially inspiring.

coffee and coups

Here’s the opening of the EthnoTraveler essay:

Burundi enjoyed almost a decade of peace between 2005 and 2015. This small, land-locked nation in central Africa had endured a brutal civil war, which lasted from 1993-2005 and killed over 300,000 people and Burundians were ready for peace, economic development, and forward progress. In the middle of that calm decade, Ben and Kristy Carlson moved from South Africa to Burundi and opened The Long Miles Coffee washing station.

Fifty-five percent of Burundians earn their living from growing, harvesting, preparing, and exporting Arabica coffee beans. Coffee totals 80% of the country’s export income. Raw beans make up the majority of these exports, with little of it actually processed or roasted inside Burundi. This export of ‘green coffee’ limits the economic benefits for Burundi and has many farmers dreaming of doing more than just growing and harvesting. They would like to process and roast coffee themselves. They would like to maybe even sip a cup of steaming coffee someday.

This green coffee shipping is primarily due to a lack of specialist knowledge, experience, and equipment. Everything from the altitude at which coffee is grown to the temperature at which beans are stored matters for achieving top quality taste and so far, Burundians simply don’t have access to these vital tools.

The Carlsons recognized this challenge and brought with them to Burundi a vision for helping coffee farmers earn fair wages and grow in the specialist knowledge that would enable Burundians to take more ownership in and financial security from their coffee farms.


Click here to read the rest of The Coup in the Coffee Fields.