The warming climate is melting the famous snows of Mount Kilimanjaro. Credit: Caroline Irby/Oxfam
Coffee-grower communities suffer from the erratic climate.

Raising southern voices: The Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union

Climate change does not impact only Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania: the coffee-grower communities based on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro also suffer from the erratic climate. Oxfam helps those communities adapt, and raises awareness of the risks climate change poses not just to them but also to the whole Western coffee supply chain.

Climate change impact

The 60,000 small-scale Fair Trade coffee farmers from the Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union (KNCU) – Africa’s oldest coffee cooperative – do not understand why climate change is occurring. However, they are experiencing the effects profoundly. They are struggling to maintain their yields in the face of rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. Irrigation ditches and water taps are running dry. Malaria is spreading up the mountain to zones where it never existed before. Desperate for income, farmers are moving into protected forest lands to cut trees for firewood and timber.

 OxfamGetting Southern voices heard

Oxfam America brought Raymond Kimaro, General Manager of the KNCU, to key offices in the U.S. Congress recently. He shared some “ground truth” about the impacts of climate change on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in his native Tanzania, and advocated for robust adaptation financing for vulnerable communities in developing countries.

Raising government officials’ awareness

When Raymond visited Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office, he noticed that the legislator had developed a briefing paper on global warming that featured two photos on the cover (drawn from Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”): one of the famous snows of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1930, and the other of the summit in 2000, where the snows are now all but melted.  Raymond simply told the Senator’s staffperson: “I grew up here” (pointing to the 1930 photo), “and now I live here” (pointing to the 2000 photo).

Winning businesses’ support

Climate change not only affects the livelihoods of the KNCU farmers and those of billions of other citizens in vulnerable communities throughout the developing world. It also affects business in the developed world. Raymond’s organization sells high-quality coffee on the Fair Trade market to major multi-national companies such as Starbucks and to mission-driven Fair Trade businesses such as Equal Exchange. Starbucks has expressed concern about the “significant and direct business risk” that climate change poses, given that changing weather patterns will affect both the quantity and quality of coffee it sources.  


As part of the new policy coalition Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), Starbucks is lobbying the US government to “provide substantial financing and other support to help developing countries prepare for and adapt to extreme weather, water scarcity, reduced crop yields, and other climate impacts that harm local communities and global supply chains alike.”

Other examples of communities adapting to climate change: 

 Geoff Sayer/Oxfam


Tanzania: Supporting the livelihood of maasai pastoralists

 Jane Beesley/Oxfam


Bolivia: Reviving ancient indigenous knowledge

 Jane Beesley/Oxfam


Bangladesh: Preparing for flood disaster