A Visit to Peace Kawomera (Uganda)
Construction is two-thirds complete. Below the ground floor sits a strong foundation firmly grounded in the fertile red earth. Above it, a cool storeroom for bulking coffee. Another storeroom one floor above will alternately double as a utility space, a vanilla, cardamom, and fruit processing facility. Above that pilings reach to the sky, awaiting the final construction push: offices, a meeting hall, and a roof to protect from the equatorial sun and rain…
As you can see from the photos, I’m speaking of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative’s new headquarters—their first office, warehouse, and operations center. Of course, this new construction is also a metaphor for the tremendous growth of the past 5 years and the inspiring hope for the future. Now, after literally dreaming it into being, working with hearts and hands, and thanks to our effort at Thanksgiving Coffee and our customers committed support, this young cooperative has moved into place as one of Uganda’s finest coffee producers, highest price earners, and most innovative social entrepreneurs.
I visited for three short days, but shared many beautiful moments…
…Truckloads of fresh picked coffee brought to the cooperative by farmers who have been carefully trained in the highest quality procedures, happy with the knowledge that they would receive the highest price on the entire Mt. Elgon, home to over 100,000 coffee farmers.
…Attending an exciting meeting of one of Peace Kawomera’s 25 new farmer groups, well attended and representing more women than men in a localized grouping for future farmer training programs, coffee collection, and our upcoming reforestation initiative.
…Sharing a good laugh with my old friends Elias Hasalube and Nakidoto Alisati in front of the shop outside their homes.
…The Peace Kawomera central washing station up and running, carefully selecting only the best ripe coffee cherries. Double sorting the cherries, then depulping, cleaning, and washing the cherries before preparing them for drying and carefully constructed drying tables. Fully integrating the best practices from the world’s most advanced coffee washing stations with a careful eye to efficient and economical operation, treating the sugar contaminated water before allowing it to return to the water table, and hand sorting dried coffee, this new washing station simultaneously hits the three interconnected goals of improving quality, decreasing production costs, and reducing environmental damage.
…Trading happy smiles with happy kids and their parents, proud members of Peace Kawomera.
…Cupping the (really really good) new crop Peace Kawomera with Lydia Nabalubi and her new protégé Christian, two powerful and committed young Ugandan women who are leading the charge towards quality improvement forward.
Now as I write this from the airport in Entebbe, ready to board my short connection to Kigali and looking forward to visiting our partners at the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative, I’m thinking about the friends I’m leaving behind, the work we’ve done, this strong, inspiring, and growing cooperative, and the hope and strength we have for the future.