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!
Keoset coffee and Phousan tea attracted the attention of some Very Important People during the 8th Meeting of the Xieng Khouang Provincial Party Committee earlier this month.
Among those tasting the coffee and taking an interest in the guidelines produced by Keoset farmers in collaboration with the LURAS project were Her Excellency Pany Yathotou, President of the National Assembly, Mr. Bounchan Sivongphan, Provincial Governor, Mr. Bounhome Thedthany, Director of the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, Mr. Thongsavath Mangnomek, Director of the Provincial Industry and Commerce Department, Mrs. Khamsay Thipdala, Acting Head of Lao Women Union… and many other local officials.
The Lao Coffee Notebook is now available! Produced by LURAS in cooperation with Comma Coffee, this unique notebook is packed with information about coffee production, processing roasting and brewing, including a map, statistics and a Lao-English wordlist, all of which has been beautifully illustrated by Tina at Helvetas. Here is a selection of the pages …
You can get your copy of the notebook for free from the LURAS-Keoset booth at International Coffee Day or at Comma Coffee. These files can also be used for educational purposes in your own organisation or project, but please credit LURAS & Comma.
International Coffee Day will be celebrated 2nd-4th October in Luang Prabang. The Kesoset Coffee Farmers will have a booth at the Heuan Chan Heritage House… so come along and meet them! Details of the event are here and here.
We are promoting the importance of Partnerships for Sustainability. At the booth in Luang Prabang you will be able to meet with coffee farmers, discuss with staff of the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service, and discover the coffee products sold by our commercial partners, Comma Coffee and Mueang Xieng Coffee.
There will also be a free gift for you to take away… come a see what it is!
The farmers in Keoset were fortunate that their coffee crop was harvested, processed and sold before the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that the lockdown has been lifted, it’s a good time to share experience.
In mid July 2020, coffee farmers and buyers from across the North of Laos came together in Phonsavanh, Xieng Khouang Province, for a three-day meeting organised by the RECoSeL, a French-funded project that is supporting the “Reinforcement and Expansion of Coffee Sector in Laos”.
Coffee farmers from Ban Tantai, one of the most productive villages in the Keoset area, delivered 500 kg of green bean to their buyer in Vientiane today. Mr Xay, who is responsible for quality control in his production group, travelled with LURAS advisers to the capital, where Comma Coffee examined the beans and roasted samples for a taste test. After some serious discussion, Mr Xay (wearing a blue shirt in the photos below) was able to enjoy a refreshing glass of nitro coffee at the Comma Reading Room.
The best quality Arabica coffee is grown at higher altitudes, above 1,000 metres, but this makes the crop vulnerable to cold temperatures. Coffee bushes are easily damaged or killed by frost, resulting in a loss of income for farmers.
Climate change is increasing the risk of extreme weather, and coffee farmers in the North of Laos have experienced frost twice in the past 5 years. The amount of damage has been different from place to place, depending on where the crop is planted. The experience in Keoset shows that coffee planted in natural forest is less vulnerable that coffee planted in the open.
This video in Lao language has more information from the farmers who were affected in December 2019.
Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) is a tiny pest that affects coffee plants throughout the world, including Laos. Coffee cherries or beans that are damaged by this pest may be rejected by buyers, or farmers will get a lower price . Fortunately, the pest can be controlled if farmers take the right action during and after harvest.
A new poster has been produced by the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) to help farmers learn how to control CBB. The poster is available for everybody involved in coffee production in the North of Laos: farmer groups, district agriculture staff, development projects and coffee companies. Copies are available from the LURAS offices in Phonsavanh and Vientiane. Alternatively, you can print and distribute yourself; just click on the picture to download the file.
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.