There's no denying that the groundwork the team from Long Miles Coffee Project undertake everyday in Burundi is enormous - since building their first washing station in 2013 and second station the following year, Long Miles Coffee founders Ben and Kristy Carlson have committed to their goal of changing the landscape of coffee in Burundi and in turn, the livelihoods of the Burundian farmers and communities.
Perhaps their most notable achievement to date is the huge endeavour of restoring and renewing the Kibira rainforest, an important source of nutrients for the soil that the coffee trees are rooted in.
Ben shared insight into the birth of the project and how important it is to address the changing climate not only in Burundi, but around the world.
"Back in 2016, NGO began conducting climate surveys targeting coffee in Burundi. In an alarming statistic, due to the diminishing environmental conditions, the survey predicted that by 2030, 90% of Burundi will not be viable for producing coffee. I thought it was an exaggeration but the reality as I looked into it was that temperature change, soil health, and all these things combined together to form the perfect storm of coffee not being able to survive and thrive in Burundi in the future.
We started thinking and dreaming and in 2017, I wrote a memo and said ‘we’re going to make a shift’. We’ve always had a triple bottom line. One of those bottom lines is environmental impact, we not only have to take care of our natural surroundings to preserve the production of coffee, but from a global perspective, Burundi is part of one of the biggest green lungs in the world - the Congo Basin - which could disappear.
So on a global level, this is affecting climate change, but then on a very local level, this is THOUSANDS of families’ livelihoods, and that’s just the people that we work with, and doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of families in Burundi that get their livelihood from coffee. This is directly affecting the lives of the people that we’re hand in hand working with every day, and if all it will take is to start planting trees, we have to do something.
The climate change report came about just around the same time that Kristy and I were doing a survey in Kenya and we had gone to some forest areas where they had reforested and planted full Indigenous green belts of trees and ground covers. At the end of the report, one of the end notes stated that the way we can combat this is with shade trees. So Kristy and I thought, well we can plant trees, that’s what we know how to do, and thought how hard can that be?
So, we made a 30 year vision (at the time) to start the Trees for Kibira Project and begin to reverse climate change and deforestation of the Kibira rainforest. The idea was to extend the forest and build these green belts that extend to the washing stations to provide biodiversity and shade. There was a lot of learning that had to happen and understanding on how to make that a reality but it started with a global wake up call that was pinpointing Burundi."