In the 1950’s, when coffee was originally introduced into Zambia by missionaries with seed stock from Tanzania and Kenya, coffee production was begun in earnest and was funded by the World Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organization.
Conditions for growing in Zambia were found to be very similar to that of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Kenya. The regions for growing in Zambia are divided by geographical location as well as by rainfall and elevation, but the regions are not very well defined. The regions are typically just defined in terms of souther, central, copperbelt, and northern.
Bourbon used to be the cultivar of choice in Zambia, however a big insect and disease problem caused a temporary switch to the catimor varietal. Eventually, the coffee board switched the country back to bourbon varieties. The coffee is not shade grown, but is rather grown in full sun using irrigation methods, fertilization, and chemical application to ensure the crops grow correctly. The country always applies the newest technologies and innovation in its coffee cultivation, including chemical and biological pest control and coffee pulp composting.
The majority of coffee in Zambia is currently grown by large farm owners (500 hectares or more in size), but the country is working constantly at increasing its amount of small coffee farms. The larger farms do a fantastic job with their coffee farming, though, with organization, good systems and equipment for cultivation and production, and healthy and well cared for trees. The farms also excel at weed control, fertilization, and water management – a must to ensure a productive coffee farm and good crop turnout.
The smaller farms (.25 to .5 hectares) are much smaller in numbers currently, and unfortunately are not as stable. The coffee grades are not consistent, and much of this has to do with insufficient equipment and fertilizer. Lack of water also produces a major problem for these farms. To top it off, quality control at the processing level is unsophisticated and lacking technique.