Farmers in the Gumutindo cooperative grow their coffee at the foot of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda. We have been sourcing Fairtrade and organic certified coffee from the cooperative for several seasons but have been seeking to develop the volumes that we buy from them. We visited them twice in 2014 and have more visits planned for the coming year.
Ready to shake mountains
Matthew Algie secured funding in 2014 through the Fair Development Fund (FDF) - a unique fund run by Comic Relief and Sainsbury's – to implement a three-year project with Gumutindo encouraging sustainable farming in terms of quality, yield and climate change adaptation. Willington Wamayeye, General Manager of the cooperative, knows that the initiative will help improve the lives of farmers and their communities. As he puts it, "we are ready to shake mountains."
The project was designed by ourselves and our ethical trading partner, Twin, to be holistic and find mutual benefits for different actors in the supply chain. Mwenyi Noah is the process manager at the Mbale processing facility where they put the dried green coffee into sacks before sending it to us to roast in our Glasgow factory.
Social, economic and environmental development
Through training and investment, the project will achieve Rainforest Alliance certification for the cooperative’s members meaning that the Gumutindo coffee we buy can be incorporated into our customer’s triple certified coffees. More broadly, this new certification will help the farmers to get a higher price for their coffee and greater market access. Throughout the project particular emphasis will also be placed on training female farmers with the intention of improving gender equality in the region.
To help develop a better understanding of the finished quality of the coffee, Matthew Algie’s Technical Director, Ewan Reid, has been working with the cooperative’s quality assurance team. In a cupping workshop in Mbale they sampled varying roast profiles and cupped dozens of coffees from both Mount Elgon and non-Ugandan coffee sources to stimulate the senses and encourage the team to accurately describe the coffees. Here Lydia Nambulumbi, the cooperative’s marketing manager, is smelling the coffee samples to assess the coffees aroma.
Improving quality control
We provided quality control spreadsheets to the team to help improve the monitoring of cupping scores and coffee traceability. We will be helping them to utilise these going forward. Here Nathan and Linda, who are newer members of the team, are doing some sample roasting before cupping.
On our most recent visit to Gumutindo we visited the new Ndokwe community washing station where the coffee cherry is processed. Maria Kirya is responsible for quality improvements at the cooperative and she said that the new mill is a very beneficial investment. She said “with this we will improve the quality to be consistent and clean.”
Careful sorting of coffee beans
These women are employed to carefully sort the dried coffee and parchment on the newly constructed African drying beds at the washing station. Having cupped the coffee coming from this new facility we are excited that we are able to taste the quality improvements in the cup already.