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Photo of coffee growers in Burundi.

A good cup of coffee may seem like a simple pleasure. But the same beans that give many around the world a reason to wake up in the morning also are giving thousands of coffee farmers in Africa the chance to make a better livelihood—with some help from Michigan State.

In the nation of Burundi—located in East Africa and often referred to as “the heart of Africa”—800,000 farmers make a living growing coffee, which accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports. After decades of civil unrest, Burundi is rebuilding its coffee industry, focusing on premium coffee varieties that thrive in the nation’s high elevation. To help prepare Burundi to enter the global market for specialty coffee, MSU’s Dan Clay, director of global programs in sustainable agrifood systems, and his team developed a first-of-its-kind online resource for growers, buyers, and all partners throughout the supply chain.

The Burundi Coffee Data Base and Knowledge Network provides buyers and sellers with the most current information about coffee production, processing, and exporting, while improving access and maximizing efficiency. Visitors to the network’s website—café—also can connect via Facebook and Twitter. 

MSU is no stranger to this part of the world and the coffee industry. Michigan State researchers were instrumental in helping Rwanda—Burundi’s neighbor to the north—establish its own successful coffee-growing operation as the country emerged from a devastating civil war. 

Working side by side with small farmers to build a stable and sustainable industry, Spartans are helping give new meaning to “strong coffee.” spartan shield

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