Thanksgiving Coffee Company

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New Project Supports Climate Change Adaptation in Uganda

May 25th, 2012

We happy to announce that our partners at the Peace Kawomera Cooperative have just received notice that their climate change adaptation project has been approved for funding by the Dutch NGO Progreso! This exciting news comes on the heels of three years of hard work developing a community-based plan to protect coffee production, and ensure sustainable livelihoods through the diversification of income, restoration of the local ecosystem, and increasing levels of food security. With deep gratitude for the support of Progreso, the leadership of Peace Kawomera, and the support from our loyal customers, Thanksgiving Coffee would like to raise a toast to what it means to live in a world where we are all connected, and where we invest in and enjoy the rewards of shared responsibility and mutual benefit.

Please read below for a description of the project, written by Peace Kawomera’s Chief Agronomist John Bosco Birenge.

Project Introduction

Peace Kawomera is a coffee farmer cooperative located on one of the slopes of Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda, near the city of Mbale. It is farmer owned and run by the management staff and Board of Directors. It started in 2004 dealing mainly in coffee production while selling it to their sole buyer in the USA Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

Since then, coffee production has been increasing alongside farmgate prices to cooperative members.  The cooperative has begun to diversify to other cash crops like vanilla and cocoa, all of which grow as intercrops within the main coffee plantings. The farmers are now grouped into 25-member Farmer Field Groups, totaling 63 farmer groups in all.

“We thank you for purchasing our coffee. The price you pay enables us to send our children to school.” — Mrs. Florence Namaja Wabire.

Though farmers have been growing these crops, they seemed not to realize the negative effects of their other activities on the environment. In 2010 coffee production plummeted, as did food production. There is also growing awareness of the negative impacts of climate change which include increasingly unpredictable differentiation between wet and dry season, increasingly intense rains and flooding, longer and prolonged dry periods, as well as subsequent changes in the local ecosystem. Additionally, the is a growing awareness of the more localized negative impacts caused by farmers’ activities such as:

Stone quarrying

Deforestation for cooking/charcoal production

Brick making and firing

Bush burning

Poor disposal of wastes i.e. in water streams and bodies.

The above few mentioned activities have affected not only cash crop production but also have a huge and significant negative impact on food crops.  Specifically these activities have lead to deterioration in soil fertility, and have affected water quality in the area’s watershed.

It is expected that the impacts of climate change will continue to disrupt local weather patterns, both extending dry periods and intensifying wet periods. The impact of these erratic changes in weather will make it difficult for farmers to plan and manage their farms, and it will increase the likelihood of losses due to drought, flooding and landslides, and disruptions in the normal crop cycle of coffee.

Project Strategy

Farmers Eias Hasalube and Hakim Aziz beneath the canopy of Mr. Aziz's restored coffee farm.

Given the above, the farmers are searching for strategies they can employ to adapt to these changes without sacrificing their livelihoods.  This is happening at the time when farmers are anxious to reap a lot out of their coffee due to its regaining reputation on the international scene, increasing market price and increasing differential and quality premium through the specialty coffee market and the good price from US-based Thanksgiving Coffee Company, a buyer since 2004.

The above-mentioned activities of environmental degradation are mainly driven by economic need arising from high rates of unemployment locally.  Therefore, this project seeks a two-pronged strategy to increase the value and production of shade grown coffee, and interventions to fortify the ecosystem against the impacts of shifting weather by planting valuable grasses in swale formation, increasing the intercropping of strategically important shade trees in coffee plantations, and reforestation of hill tops and ridges to create a conducive micro climate for coffee. This fortified ecosystem will be better able to protect coffee from severe rains because of increased canopy cover, and will be able to reduce erosion by controlling runoff. Additionally, through the selection of appropriate shade trees, the project will increase the production of high-mulching organic matter which will improve soil quality, a critical step towards improved coffee quality and production, as well creating habitat for the biological control agents here referred to as natural enemies of the pests.

Agro forestry provides additional sources of income especially from sales of fruits from the planted trees, sale of harvested grasses from swales, sale of firewood and of seedlings from the nurseries to other communities.

Agronomist and project leader JB Birenge demonstrates simple construction of living barriers used to control erosion.

This will also reduce the gap of unemployment and improve on food security for the area’s farmers by increasing the diversity of foods immediately available to farming families.  Protecting and restoring the environment will reduce the impacts of climate change, enhance biodiversity, and improve on ecological systems which are all aimed at improving coffee production and food security.

The project will be built around a package of incentives designed to facilitate and inspire quick uptake in action by individual farmers. The methodology will be driven by the established network and practice of the Farmer Field Schools. Led by the project manager, a team will create local seedling nurseries and begin the process of educating individual farmers through the FFS groups. After an 6 month period, the leading farmer in each FFS group (determined by objective pre-established criteria around tree planting, swale construction, soil and water conservation) will be given a female goat. These goats produce manure which is high in nitrogen which can be incorporated back into the fields for improved soil fertility. After an additional 6 months the next leading farmer in each FFS Group will be rewarded a goat based upon the established criteria. These goats will be expected to reproduce so as time goes on, the kids will be given out to other members who come second, i.e. responsibility will be upon farmers to know that if such a farmer`s goat kids, the offspring will be expected to be designated by the project to the next recipient farmer. This process of review and award will be conducted 4 times (6, 12, 18, and 24 months. It is estimated that the project will need to purchase 252 female goats (63 FFS Groupsx4 cycles) to get the inventive program off the ground and to a point of self-sustainability.

Nathan Watadena points to land that is targeted for reforestation and restoration.

PROBLEM STATEMENT AND GOALS

Peace Kawomera’s livelihood is coffee produced on the slopes of Mt. Elgon between 1300 – 1700 meters above sea level.  They are farmers whose staple foods are cereal crops but also keep some livestock they have diversified to vanilla and of recent though faint cocoa plants.  But in amidst all these, farmers have realized the effects of climate change and how it is affecting their first crop which is coffee.

A survey conducted with 12 farmer groups noted that rains come late, and are now more erratic where  by the rainy and dry seasons are harsher than ever, this has made it difficult for them to cope with the increased un employment rate which has led to youths making mud bricks for money, stone quarrying, cutting trees for timber and firewood to burn bricks all these leaving coffee plants in the bare environment. Therefore, this project must protect the farmer’s livelihood.  This will ensure sustainability of coffee production, food security and better understanding of the ecosystems that work hand in hand.

GOALS

1      Ensure long term sustainability of coffee farming with focus on quality production.

2      Improve biodiversity

3      Improve on food security.

4      Improve on water quality (water sheds).

5      Improve on soil quality.

6      To create a sense of responsibility towards environment.

7      Educate farmers on positive and negative impact of various economic activities

Diversify economic activity and income generation through promotion of environmentally preferable activities


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3 Comments on “New Project Supports Climate Change Adaptation in Uganda”

  1. P Coulston says:

    How much do goats cost?

  2. This is thrilling news! I lead a community food and agriculture group in the Ojai Valley, California and we are working with neighbors to start growing more of our own food in organic and sustainable methods. As part of this effort, I write a monthly on-line newsletter, the FOOD NEWS.

    I had thought that this month I would direct readers to Thanksgiving Coffee, and in particular the “Delicious Peace” coffee which frankly, is consistently the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. So imagine my surprise to read this fantastic news about how that community is educating themselves and changing practices by designing with “permaculture” (permanent agriculture) methodology. Well done!!

  3. Manget Franco says:

    All efforts to combat the effects of climate change are highly appreciated and the effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change through hoe basin agriculture, evergreen agriculture, climate smart agriculture and farmer-led agriculture are very important because crop losses are high food security needs to be increased in order to prevent hunger, thank you for the service in mount Elgon and Uganda at large.
    landslides, flooding, crop loss and loss of lives is really high inthis area. Promotion of agroforestry technologies is applicable in these ares for soil and water conservation, increased food security and fuel wood production, which are currently a major problem. God bless you.

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