Farmers & Cooperatives

Exciting news from Uganda this morning: after nearly 2 years of project development, The Peace Kawomera Cooperative is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development (the development wing of the State Department) for a $250,000 infrastructure development project.

Just writing those words is a little surreal. It’s been a long time coming, three trips to Uganda, countless hours meeting, emailing, listening to each other on scratchy internet and cell phones. Most of all, it’s been a tireless effort led by JJ Keki and Muhammed Kakaire Hatibu, Peace Kawomera’s Chairman and Secretary Manager, respectively.

The project will finance the construction of a world-class coffee processing and storage facility, which will avail the farmers with the best tools of the coffee trade. Now, for the first time in the history of coffee cultivation in Uganda, farmers will be able to bring out the full potential of their heirloom Bugisu Arabica varietals. The Cooperative will collect freshly picked, ripe cherries, and then control the process of depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying in a centralized facility. Based on the development of similar processing techniques in neighboring Kenya and Rwanda (where PKC recently visited our partner cooperative there to study the operation of a central washing station, read more), we expect the washing station to dramatically improve the quality of the farmers’ coffee. And we’re looking forward to paying more for each pound of coffee we buy.

None of this would be possible if it were not for the support of our loyal customers, who not only lined up to build a market for this young cooperative’s coffee, but also enlisted the power of their coffee buying dollars, through our profit sharing partnership, and over the past 5 years, raised over $100,000 which bought the land and building materials that gave USAID the confidence they needed to invest further in this remarkable endeavor.

Recently, we made some big changes in our project, and transitioned into a new phase of our partnership with the farmers. Instead of $1.00 per pound or package sold going back to Uganda, we dropped the rebate to $.25. At the same time, we increased the price to the farmers by $.20/lb. We hope to completely phase out the profit-sharing overtime, and replace it with ever increasing prices to the farmers. Please also note that we expect volumes to increase (because of clear price incentives and actual investment in increasing yields through better organic farming practices, pruning, and planting techniques). Instead of creating a continuing subsidy, we created a kind of front-loaded capital fund. This money sustained the rapid growth of a young cooperative, and got them to solid ground. Now they are up and running, and ready to grow.

It’s almost too sweet to believe…but then it gets even better. Two days ago, arrival samples from our two incoming containers (75,000 lbs) arrived. I roasted them immediately, and cupped them yesterday. They are great. Sweeter than ever before, with more clarity and complexity, and a fuller expression of their unique character. All of this was made possible by better management of coffee buying, which the cooperative initiated themselves. And this was using their old machinery and processing methods…if the coffee is already improving this much, imagine how it will taste next year!

Many thanks to Laura Wetzler and Kulanu.org for their tireless work and for forging the initial connection with the Uganda-based USAID office. As with everything we’ve been able to do in Uganda, none of this would be possible without your contribution.

You+coffee you love+farmers who love their coffee+a roasting company who loves farmers+4 years of hard work=

Good coffee getting better+Farmers working smarter not harder+Incomes increasing+An interfaith peace-making initiative moving forward.

That’s an equation we’re really proud of. Not just a cup, but a just cup. 

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