TANZANIA - COUNTRY OF FRAGRANT SPICES
Just as diverse as the rhythms of Tanzanian cultures are the spices we source in direct trade from this exciting African country.
In the middle of the rainforest and yet connected
Tanzania, the land of the Maasai, is home to many exotic spices. At 1800m above sea level and with around 95% humidity, pepper, lemon grass and cloves are among the plants that find the best growing conditions here. These plants grow amidst primaeval forests. Through this harmonious coexistence no rainforest surface is destroyed for farming.
But there is one challenge: the individual farmers are scattered across vast areas and can only be reached with great effort. To ensure that the precious spices find their way to us in Sprögnitz, we need lots of local help. We have found this in Cleopa Ayo and his wife Agnes.
Swapping hotel for tree nursery
Cleopa was a successful hotel manager before deciding to join the organic spice business. He has always been interested in nutrition and agriculture. Furthermore, he has always been motivated to give back to the people. He does this by making sure there is available work which gives the people of his home region a positive outlook. Together with his wife Agnes, he founded a plant nursery in Muheza, in the middle of the breathtaking scenery of the Usambara Mountains. Growing spice plants is only one aspect of his work. Cleopa and Agnes also look after over 600 farming families – from the cultivation of their produce to the transport.
A logistical challenge
The farming families live in the middle of the jungle. Many have only about 2 acres of land to feed themselves. They grow mangoes, bananas, jackfruit and coconuts - and spices. Cars are not very useful here. Transport is by motorcycle or people must go on foot for hours and hours. The farming families receive support from Cleopa and his field officers. They also advise on the cultivation and harvest of spices. For example, cutting the cinnamon bark which requires a lot of skill
In addition to harvesting and transporting, drying and processing of the spices, Cleopa also makes sure he is reaching the high quality standards needed for organic certifications. His company in Muheza employs 35 people, who process the raw materials mostly by hand. Cleopa has a specially built drying plant, which is heated with the help of a wood stove. And - we could hardly believe our eyes – he uses the same cutting machine as our very own Kurt Kainz, one of our treasured pioneer farmers. Good things don’t know any borders.
More than a growing project
Cleopas and Agnes’ work goes far beyond the processing of spices. The couple is heavily involved in looking after their region by supporting the farmers financially and setting up infrastructure. Specially constructed wells make it easier for the people of the mountain villages to access drinking water. They also support a school where children with disabilities receive industry training.
Cleopas greatest joy is to see that the people in his country are now looking to the future with hope again. Like Mama Sophia, a farmer's wife, who was able to build a new kitchen and install solar panels on the roof by working with SONNENTOR and Cleopa. Stories like these show us that Direct Trade is the right way to do business. We can be assured that our understanding of quality, sustainability and looking after the common good is also practised in faraway Tanzania