When Tharcis (Tar-cease) Ntahonkuriye wandered into my makeshift studio space in the coffee hills, this 76 year old mostly toothless coffee farmer won me over instantly. It is a running family joke that my dad, whose name is Bruce Wayne, is THE real-true-one-and-only Batman. Seeing Tharcis in his Batman hat out in the rural African coffee hills made me smile. He lives near the Long Miles Coffee Project washing station, but during our first season he didn’t deliver his coffee cherries to us. He thinks he will next year now that he has seen that we pay on time, offer farmers extra premiums and benefits, and are concerned about the well being of his community. Tharcis has two daughters that have died and a son that he has lost touch with. He has been farming coffee since he was 20 years old, right thought the devastating Hutu/Tutsi war that shook the region. Tharcis has around 300 coffee trees, which last season earned him just 25,000 FBU… a little over $16.
He has been walking 3 or 4 kilometers (up to 2.5 miles) to deliver his cherries to the washing station each day. It is for elderly farmers like Tharcis that we want to purchase a fleet of bikes and set up coffee collection points around the region. Not only would Tharcis not have to walk as far, but his coffee cherries would also not have time to ferment in the hot sun. The bikes would provide jobs to people in the community as drivers and collection point managers. Fingers crossed that we can secure funding to get that up and running soon.
Tharcis also mentioned to me that beer and rice are his favorite foods now that he has no teeth. : )