Located in the Northern Uplands of Laos, Xieng Khouang Province is a land rich in natural resources and ethnic diversity. The Keoset cluster of villages is home to 200 families who have been growing coffee for more than a decade.
The specific climate and geography of Xieng Khouang provides suitable conditions to produce high-quality Arabica coffee. The farmers of Keoset have planted their coffee in natural forest at elevations between 1,100 and 1,400 metres. Recently they have been cooperating with the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service to improve both the quality and quantity of their coffee beans.
The coffee is cultivated without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Cherries are harvested between November and February and turned into green beans using both washed and natural processing techniques. The entire process is respectful of local culture, biodiversity and people’s health.
After roasting by two partners companies, Muang Xieng and Comma, this high quality coffee is ready for consumers who like to drink something special!
The harvest has started in Keoset and farmers are on track to more than double their production of organic Arabica coffee. At the same time, visitors from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) came to see how these high quality beans are processed. SDC support for coffee production in Keoset goes back nearly 10 years, when the farmers of Keoset received training under the Small-scale Agro-enterprise Development in the Uplands (SADU) Project. In cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, SDC is now supporting further improvements in coffee production and processing through the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS), with the private sector playing an important role in providing advice and incentives that help farmers improve both the quantity and quality of their coffee.
The SDC visitors included, Mr. Jean-François Cuénod, the new Regional Director of Cooperation for the Mekong Region. Also in the group were Mr. Christian Engler, Deputy Regional Director and Head of the Agriculture and Food Security Domain, and Ms. Mila Marie Lomarda, Regional Advisor for Disaster Risk Reduction. All of them were able to enjoy a delicious cup of Keoset coffee after observing the hard work being carried out in Pieng and Tantai villages.
These guidelines are based on our experience as coffee farmers in Xieng Khuang Province. We have been growing forest coffee in the Keoset Cluster of villages for nearly 20 years. During that time we have received advice and support from the government, projects and companies, but the most valuable knowledge and skills comes from our own practical activities, including planting, composting, pruning, processing, drying and selling our coffee.
We want to share our experience with other farmers, and have already welcomed hundreds of visitors to our coffee farms and processing centres. These guidelines provide a summary of the techniques we have been using, and we encourage you to select and adapt this information to suit your local conditions. We hope this information will be beneficial for many other coffee producers.
With best wishes from the farmers of Ban Pieng, Ban Phahin, Ban Phoung, Ban Tan Tai and Ban Tan Neua
Copies of the new guidelines are available from the LURAS project offices in Vientiane and Phonsavanh, and the Department of Technical Extension and Agro-Processing (DTEAP).
The coffee farmers of Keoset have chosen a new logo for their products. The new design has similar elements as before, showing the hands of farmers working together to produce coffee. However, the logo now has a simpler design, bolder colours and the initials ‘KS’ in the branches of the tree, making it easier to recognise when used on packaging.
Maintaining a strong identity for Keoset coffee is one way to ensure that farmers continue to receive a premium price for their product. This is the thinking behind ‘single-origin coffee’, similar to the marketing of wine, or other drinks and foods that come from a specific geographic area and have characteristic qualities.
Keoset coffee comes from a cluster of 5 villages in Khoun District of Xieng Khouang Province. The coffee is an Arabica cultivar known as Catimor, grown under natural forest at an elevation of between 1,100 and 1,400 metres. When processed and roasted, the coffee reaches Specialty Grade A according to SCA standards. Quality experts have described the wash-processed beans as having a bright acidity, clean body and nutty flavor with notes of jasmine tea. The natural-processed coffee has more complex flavor notes including jasmine tea, pear, brown sugar and chocolate.
Coffee producers from Keoset participated in the celebration of International Coffee Day, which was held in the historic city of Luang Prabang on 12th October.
Farmers from two Keoset villages – Ban Pieng and Tan Tai – travelled 300 km to prepare their booth with assistance from staff of the Khoun District Agriculture and Forestry Office and the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS). On display at the Heuan Chan Heritage Centre were green beans produced by the farmers in addition to finished products that are sold by Comma Coffee and Mueang Xieng Coffee.
Among the hundreds of visitors to the Keoset booth was Mr. Thongsavanh Phanthalavong, the Deputy Director General of the Department of Technical Extension and Agro-Processing (DTEAP) who can be seen here talking to Mrs Chandy Khamouan, Head of the Ban Pieng coffee farmers group, and Mrs Siphanh Phommavong, who is responsible for coffee development at the District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO).
Lots of interest was shown in a new set of coffee production manuals that have been produced by LURAS based on the experience of the farmers in Keoset. Copies were requested by other farmers, including representatives of groups from as far away as Phongsaly and Champassak. These illustrated technical guidelines in Lao Language will soon be available for general distribution.
The success and sustainability of investments in the coffee sector depends on the next generation of farmers. This video was made at a forum of young farmers held in the Keoset Community in February 2019.
With the latest coffee harvest coming to an end in the Keoset Cluster of villages, the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) has summarised some of lessons that are being learned. This presentation was made at meetings of the Lao Coffee Board and the Working Group on Farmers and Agribusiness.