I want to share a little story about a new project we are beginning in one area of our churches. We are partnering with Zukuka Bora (the BEST coffee) to help bring small, incremental changes directly to the lives of local coffee farmers in Bududa.
Let me back up…Most coffee produced here in Uganda is by local, rural farmers. One season a year, these fruits begin to ripen and it’s harvest season, usually between August and November. These farmers live on the proceeds of this one harvest season for most of the year. But most coffee farmers live in the mountains and do not have vehicles. And the roads in these mountains are not paved or easy to maneuver. So middle-men get involved. These people have carved out a position in the trade by arranging the movement of coffee from the local farmers in the mountains down to the coffee companies in the lowlands. These coffee companies handle the roasting, packaging, selling, and distribution of the finished product. They buy what is called “Green Coffee” from the middle-men who have bought it from the coffee farmer. The only thing the middle-men do is transport the product. And yet they take a significant cut of the money from the coffee company. That results in the local farmer receiving less than market value because he is unable to transport the coffee beans to the coffee company that is purchasing the product. And the majority of coffee companies here in Uganda place a low value on the quality of coffee, purchasing pretty much anything and everything. This allows them to pay bottom price for the product and maximize their own profits.
So, a few years ago a local NGO called Jenga began a coffee project on Mount Wanale with two goals: produce top quality coffee and benefit the local farmers. This became Zukuka Bora. They began purchasing directly from the local farmers, removing the middle man and the money he takes from the process. Then, they said we are going to handle the processing completely: what we want is TOP quality coffee cherries. (Side note: If this is getting too technical, my apologies. Bear with me.) Purchasing only the best quality cherries and managing every step of the processing allows Zukuka Bora to produce the best coffee possible, and thus charging a higher price for the coffee. Those proceeds, the profits from selling better coffee, goes back to the local farmer. Obviously there is business costs involved in growing, developing, expanding, and operating; but the profits of the company do not stay in the company – they go BACK to the local farmers. They do this by offering a BONUS payment. You see, the time of year that the coffee is sold and shipped oversees coincides with the dry (or hungry) season here in Uganda. So when Zukuka Bora sells the coffee, they then go back to the local farmers with a bonus payment that even increases the benefit the farmers are receiving. And it happens at a time of year that is very hard for people here in Uganda.
Okay, that’s the overall project. So what are we doing? Well, we have churches throughout the mountains in Eastern Uganda. And our friends at Zukuka Bora were thinking about areas to expand their project, but they didn’t know anyone in different areas. Through relationship and conversation, we decided to explore a partnership between the two ministries – NTCC and Zukuka Bora. We took them to an area with a church we have been partnering with closely the past few years. Introduced them to the pastor, leaders, and local farmers. They held a farmers meeting of about 30 local coffee farmers to gauge their interest in the project. The response was great. Then we (NTCC) invested some money that was gifted to us for these types of projects for building drying racks, washing tanks, pulping machines, water taps, and storage facilities. And now the harvest season is going to begin soon.
We are excited about this possibility of helping the local farmers in the Waninda, Bududa area. It is the work that these people do – growing coffee. And by partnering with Zukuka Bora, we are able to help them do a little better in their lives without becoming dependent upon us. We are hoping that this year’s “Trial Run” will be a huge success and that in the years ahead the project in Bududa will grow and grow! Please join us in this prayer!