He collects 40 kilograms a day from the leftover cups in cafes

Amid the fertilizer crisis, an Albanian farmer uses coffee grounds to feed his land

The young farmer owns only half a hectare of farmland but is unable to afford the imported fertilizers.


After the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine sent fertilizer prices skyrocketing, Albanian farmer Alban Kakale has returned to the traditional ways of feeding his land with coffee grounds.

Although the 38-year-old farmer owns only half a hectare of agricultural land in the northwestern Albanian town of Mamoras, he cannot afford chemical fertilizers imported from abroad.

As in the rest of the world, Albania's agricultural sector has been hit by rising costs, with fuel and fertilizer prices rising due to Russia's war, the main producer of both commodities, against Ukraine.

In order to reduce costs, Kakale resorted to coffee grounds, a natural fertilizer abundant in Albania, where coffee is a favorite beverage and cafes are spread all over the country.

Kakali says he collects up to 40 kilograms of ground coffee every day (from leftover coffee cups).

“Albanians are passionate about coffee,” he adds, but the process of composting the bagasse takes a long time, as he must first collect the coffee residues before mixing them with herbs and then wait three months for the mixture to be ready for use.

However, the end product is “rich in nitrogen, magnesium and potassium, which is a good alternative to chemical fertilizers” and “repels insects,” Kakali says.

Many of the 280,000 dairy farmers have returned to similar traditional methods of feeding their soil instead of paying high prices for imported fertilizer.

By switching to ground coffee, Kakali says, he saves between 1,500 and 2,000 euros a year.

As the “Covid-19” pandemic disrupted global trade, Kakali diversified his plantings, and is now focusing on growing exotic crops, including “passion fruit” and goji berries, after fruit imports from South America stopped during the epidemic when demand began to rise.

"These two types of fruit were in high demand because they are known for their ability to boost the immune system and for their antioxidant properties," says his wife Julie, a 34-year-old nurse.

Alban Zusi, a businessman who used to produce organic fertilizer from animal waste in Lega in northern Albania, explains that the high prices had a "positive side", as it allowed farmers to go back to their roots.

Fresh Passion Fruit

This year alone, Albanian farmer Kakale harvested half a ton of passion fruit, which sells for around 15 euros per kilogram, not a small sum in Albania, where salaries average 460 euros.

"People love it so much and it smells great, and it's better than the ones in their home countries, because everything is fresh here," Kakali says.

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