The predominant coffee varieties in Nepal require shade. In other coffee producing nations sun resistant plants have been developed to deliver more intensive production but for Nepal shade grown coffee is of great benefit. It means farmers can grow their crop in natural hillside forests without having any significant effects on the existing ecosystem. This opens up large areas of previously uncultivated land for productive use which otherwise may have been idle or have been cleared to allow cultivation of other forms. There is also a large incentive for coffee growing communities to conserve and rejuvenate existing habitats to provide shelter and pest control (a permaculture approach) for their valuable produce. Many of the farms we visited didn’t look anything like coffee plantations but rather thriving jungles with birds, monkeys and even deer, with just a few coffee plants scattered in between.
We buy our Nepali coffee from farmer owned co-operatives which ensures that the farmers are the direct beneficiaries and allows them to maintain their economic independence rather than working for a larger producer. This has some downsides for us - for a large group of small farms it is more difficult to get organic and bird friendly certifications as the costs of attaining certification often outweigh the benefits when total production for each individual farmer is low. But we believe that their independence is more important than the certification label we get to stamp on the bag and from our experience these farmers are using natural and sustainable methods which we endorse.
Farming is a way of life for the majority of rural Nepalese. But most of their crop is low value and production is often only enough for subsistence. Coffee is a crop that the Nepalese government is encouraging farmers to grow because it is well suited to high altitudes, it is high value and there is an enormous export market. Growing coffee gives the farmers an opportunity to earn an income off their land rather than just managing to feed themselves. As the industry in Nepal grows the employment opportunities for families in the surrounding regions will increase and a sustainable export economy can emerge. By buying Sherpa Coffee you are helping rural Nepali people help themselves.
For every Kg of Nepali coffee sold we donate $5 to Himalayan Trust to support their efforts in the wake of the April 2015 earthquake. The Himalayan Trust was founded in 1960 by fellow Kiwi Sir Ed Hillary to help the Nepali people by building schools and hospitals, training teachers and doctors, supplying volunteers, restoring forests, providing help in emergencies and much more. Today, their focus is on rebuilding schools and other vital infrastructure after the violent 7.8 magnitude quake. This was one of the worst natural disasters in Nepal’s history and it left 2.8 million people across the country in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Almost 8,900 people lost their lives, over 100,000 people were injured and 600,000 houses were destroyed. We reckon that while we enjoy a fresh cup of Nepals coffee we can set a couple of bucks aside to help them out at the same time.
Nepal is one of the Northern most coffee producing nations in the world. The Himalayan mountain range creates a unique micro climate along it’s Southern foothills which is high altitude (great for coffee) yet semi-tropical and frost free. Their annual production is miniscule, roughly 340 tonnes compared to over 320,000 tonnes produced in India or 2.7 million tonnes from Brazil, which makes it one of the rarest and most unique coffees available. While coffee growing is a relatively new industry in Nepal they have had a huge amount of outside interest and investment to promote modern growing and processing practices to produce high quality Arabicas for the specialty coffee market.