Leslie Laborde | 2021-10-07
and not in a consumer country often far from the reality of coffee production.
During a sourcing trip, I had the chance to discover a new impetus for coffee growing in Uganda, but above all a lever for improving the living conditions of producers.
Uganda is part of the Great Lakes region of Africa. Divided into 4 large geographical regions but also into 6 traditional Bantu kingdoms, this country has one foot anchored in a strong tradition and the other heading towards a revival. The main export is coffee and that is why our partner Great Lakes Coffee, with whom we work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has developed its activities on the other side of the border. Great Lake Coffee produces washed coffee in the east of the country in the Mount Elgon area and natural coffee in the west in the Rwenzori Mountain range. It is in the latter region that their sustainability programme behind this certification began in 2018.
To produce coffee that is 100% traceable and profitable for the farmers.
Produce high quality coffee so that it is profitable.
Farming equipment is made available to farmers who are members of the programme. This significantly improves their farming practices, yields and consequently the quality of the coffee. When you increase the yield and quality of a coffee, you automatically increase its profitability. By being transparent and adding value, the income paid to farmers increases and so does their standard of living.
Sharing good farming practices to impact on quality.
To do this, they have set up a pyramid system led by 50 agricultural engineers who share their knowledge with more than 700 leading farmers who have a pilot farm among the 25,000 member farmers. Each pilot farm becomes a place of training and sharing of farming practices for surrounding farmers. One of the key points of this concept is to choose the right lead farmer. It is not necessarily the size of the farm or its productivity that counts, but rather the personality of the farmer. He must be well integrated into his community, as not all farmers speak Swahili, but above all, he must be a teacher, as he is a vehicle for transmission.
With more than 25,000 farmer members, traceability is more than an issue! To collect this incredible mass of information, Great Lake Coffee has developed an application so that each engineer can record the data collected during his field visits (information on the farmer, his family, the number of hectares of coffee grown, bananas or other crops, the yield and income generated by each crop, the number of goats, cows, training courses he has attended or not...). A complete assessment of the social situation of each farmer!
Is his income diversified enough? Can he or she take up other crops?
A certification to go further
Great Lake Coffee would like to turn this programme into a certification. This makes sense because all certifications related to coffee production, or any other agricultural production are made by the consumer countries and not by the producer countries. They are therefore based on consumer expectations and not on the difficulties encountered by the farmers.
If consumers were more aware of production issues, they would perhaps seek a more equitable certification in the producer-consumer balance.
The objective of this certification, the first created in a producer country, is to positively shake up the sector by starting from the bottom, the standard of living of the farmers, and not by basing itself on the expectations of consumers, which are sometimes out of step.
Leslie, Belco marketing team.