The Circle of Excellence groups are the “building blocks” Cameroon Boyo employs to ensure quality and growth. Farmers with adjoining farm lands organize themselves in groups of 20 or fewer self-governing units to form a Circle of Excellence. Working together in small groups provides an opportunity for investments in farm processing facilities that would increase both provide yield and quality, while reducing effort and cost of production. The quality of coffee delivered to market is largely determined by procedures and processes followed by farmers during and after harvesting of their coffee cherries. When coffee from smallholder farmers is consolidated (as in our case) to achieve exportable volumes, it becomes very important to set uniform production standards, and to monitor adherence by the participating farmers. Next to the development of coffee quality, other factors, including cultural and social structures in villages, can present opportunities ánd challenges to the collaborative functioning of our initiative. The Circle of Excellence concept takes advantage of the opportunities and mitigates risks associated with challenges. The Circles empowering the member farmers to be accepted as co-professional in our collaborative value chain; and it is our “building block” which we replicate either to achieve larger volumes of coffee or connect directly with end markets as unique micro lots.
In 2016 we got in contact with Matti Focha, who at the time was looking for a way to present the Cameroon Boyo coffee in the European market. The story about how the farmers are treated as co-professionals, captured our interest immediately. Farmers delivering coffee to Cameroon Boyo always have the choice to sell for quick cash to other buyers in the area, however, once they engage into the joint venture the benefit and development accompanying it will place the farmers onto a new professional level. By cooperating in this joint venture, the farmers are assured a fitting price for their cherry quality, more relative to the prices paid by roasters. The Coffee Quest functions as agent for Cameroon Boyo, providing services in quality control and logistics, and representing the organization towards specialty roasters in Europe.
In 2018, the next step for Cameroon Boyo was to replicate the successful pilot Belo micro washing station to a second site, together with the Circle of Excellence group in Sho. The new micro-washing station was partly financed by roasters that had supported the project from the beginning. In return for their investment they receive a discount for upcoming purchases. The Sho farmers expressed their willingness to invest in the station in terms of work and materials and to some extend some financial backing if necessary. But first and foremost, they dedicaded their entire crop to the station. The Sho washing station has finished, but the Cameroon Boyo network is frequently disrupted by the turmoil in the region. The Hilltop Team (local name) and Circles of Excellence groups work hard to prevent delays and continue transforming the Cameronian landscape for specialty coffee.
In West-Africa there are only a few high altitude regions suitable for the production of quality Arabica beans. In Cameroon there is a limited variation when it comes to coffee variaties, however, these “older” Java II and Typica plants provide excellent quality. The Circles of Excellence are producing group lots of comparable quality. The lots you find on the offerlist are related to the village names where each of these groups are based. These full bodied, nice aroma, and lower acidity lots, show only small differences in cup profile between the groups. The accessible flavours are popular among consumers, and knowing the history behind these coffees, we are often able to connect to customers on a deeper level. All of the Circle of Excellence groups return into the Seasonal assortment as the sometimes challenging logistics make individual Circle of Excellence groups not stable enough for a year-round supply. However, the relationship and social character of these Circle of Excellence lots, have all the characteristics of our Classic segment.