L.I.S.A.: What is your PhD project about and what got you interested in the chosen topic to begin with?
Yustina Komba: My Ph.D. project is about “A History of Coffee Production in Mbinga District, Tanzania, c.1920 – 2015”. This study specifically seeks to answer the following questions: What were the driving forces for the introduction and expansion of coffee production in the Mbinga district? What was the role of missionaries in the introduction of coffee in the district? What was the role of the state in the establishment and expansion of coffee production in the district from the 1920s to 2015? What role did private enterprise and local and global market forces play in the production, distribution, and marketing of coffee in the Mbinga district? What has the role of women in coffee production been and in what ways has it changed over time? What were the multi-layered impacts of coffee production on the district and the livelihoods of its people? How did people in the district react towards those impacts over time? To what extent did coffee production and its impact in the Mbinga district correspond or differ from coffee production in the rest of Tanzania over time?
My interest in this project revolves around several reasons: firstly, the MA dissertation exposed me to the coffee industry as I researched on “The Impact of Coffee Production on the Socio-economic Status of the People of Mbinga District, 1950-1990”. This study was the one which prepared and equipped me to embark on the Ph.D. research topic. I wanted to have a broader outlook on the coffee sector since the study provides just a fragmented outlook. Secondly, very little has been written on coffee production (Arabica) in Mbinga district. Most of the studies on coffee in Mbinga district have focused either on the colonial period or the post-colonial period. Thirdly, most of the studies on coffee in the country have been done by economists and thus lack a qualitative analysis. Fourthly, Coffee production in Tanzania has recently severely dropped, but this part of the country has kept on expanding its production. Fifthly, the production of coffee in this area is mainly performed by smallholder farmers who own the average of 0.7 ha. Lastly, coffee is the main source of income in this district whereby 70% of the district's economy relies on coffee. Therefore, coffee has a great influence on the community livelihood.