Partnering for Primates

A new alliance could help coffee farmers and chimpanzees in Tanzania.

By Susan Cosier

At the Specialty Coffee Association’s conference in 2005, in the keynote address, Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist and humanitarian, spoke about how the coffee industry could and should be involved with conservation in Africa.

Just two years later, that idea has become reality.  

Goodall, a coffee lover herself, announced yesterday that her institute has formed a partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The two organizations came together to help a group of 2,700 small-scale coffee farmers in Tanzania and to protect chimpanzee habitat. Around the country’s Gombe National Park, where Goodall has been conducting studies for decades, coffee farming practices have denuded forests and destroyed chimp habitat.

Right now, the chimps that live in the park are prisoners there, said Goodall at a press conference on Monday. The forest around them is virtually gone and many of the trees that remain on the hillsides are not indigenous, added Lindsey Bolger, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ director of coffee sourcing and relationships. Where there used to be 1 to 2 million chimps in the region, there are now only about 150,000.

Through the partnership, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will work with farmers, promoting more sustainable agricultural practices and working towards fair trade certification for the coffee. By preserving the natural landscape, farmers will help ensure that chimps have access to other areas to roam, get food, and mate, thus expanding the population’s genetic diversity. 

Not only will the growing practices and the higher profits protect the forests and the chimps—they’ll also lead to higher quality coffee, according to Bolger.

Before Green Mountain Coffee Roasters was involved, farmers in the area mixed the beans from the region with lower-grade beans grown in the valleys below. If the company can help coffee farmers in the region produce high-quality coffee more consistently, the Tanzanian farmers will be more invested in the land and will not continue to cut down the forest.

At Monday’s conference, before samples of the smooth yet slightly acidic Gombe Reserve coffee were served in wine glasses, Goodall whooped to the audience to demonstrate how the chimpanzees would communicate excited anticipation.

“We are part of this amazing animal kingdom,” said Goodall. When we see what humans are doing to these animals that are so similar to us, “you realize you need a new respect.”

Gombe Reserve coffee is available through Green Mountain Coffee and through the Jane Goodall Institute website, where 10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the organization.


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