We love it when good coffee intersects with good work being done in producing countries. This coffee is a perfect example that we sourced through some new friends at Mercanta Coffee. It has notes of Cranberry, Spice, and Dark Chocolate.
In addition to offering a well-balanced cup full of blackcurrant, this Itende JKT coffee has a fascinating back story and is helping at-risk young people make a better future for themselves. Itende JKT coffees are produced through the Tanzanian Army’s National Youth Program. The National Service – or Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa (JKT) in Swahili – offers alternatives to young people who have neither the opportunities nor the resources to access higher education. The programme is voluntary, and young people who inscribe are taught life-skills that enhance their ability to gain employment and income in areas such as agriculture, masonry, carpentry and entrepreneurship.
While the programme has multiple ‘camps’ across the country, the Itende camp is special in its focus on agriculture – and coffee in particular. The programme’s coffee plantations extend across 200 acres, and, in addition to using the TaCRI (Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute) seedlings that have been gifted to the programme, they have built their own nursery in which they have begun to cultivate their own seedlings. Through the land, there is a very healthy looking stream which is a vital source of fresh, clean water. In fact, considering the rural environs, it is surprising that Itende is located only 1.5 km from the city centres of Mbeya – another feature that makes it attractive to the young people who attend. Young people from all over the country attend the programme – usually for 3 to 6 months – and those who show initiative can apply for employment immediately after finishing their training.
Most of those attending the Itende camp are from impoverished urban areas that, without the programme and the skills and self-confidence it conveys, would not be able to find gainful, lasting employment. In addition to training in coffee cultivation, they learn skills in farming other agricultural crops (maize, beans and sunflower) and in carpentry and masonry. Although they receive no quality assessment training at this time, the Tanzania Coffee Board and the Taylor Winch dry mill to which Itende delivers provide quality guidance and feedback.