A true underdog - Uganda
Uganda: what automatically springs to mind as we make the nation the topic of discussion? Oppression, corruption, ‘The Last King of Scotland’? This landlocked nation of Africa has been synonymous with controversy since gaining independence during the early 1960s.
The country has endured decades of struggle, independence was followed by the ‘Buganda Crises’ which led to the Idi Amin regime during the ‘70s. Many Ugandans were subject to the mass killings and brutality during the regime and the entrepreneurial Indian minority were ousted from the nation.
The cultivation of coffee in Uganda has led the crop to become the most valuable commodity being exported from the landlocked African nation.
Coffee in Uganda
Not traditionally a nation with a reputation for specialty coffee, Uganda has developed through the cultivation of fine Robusta. Arabica coffee is on the rise, Mount Elgon and Mount Rwenzori lend ideal conditions for the growth of fine crop. The nation has been without the history, infrastructure and knowledge required to farm Arabica, but growth and change are on the rise.
Currently, Arabica counts for 20% of the nation’s exports and the figure continues to increase. This figure has almost doubled since the early 90s, the growth in this sector has been nothing short of exponential and accompanying the impressive growth is its quality. The liberalization of the coffee industry removed all state control and private firms are responsible for the continued growth.
The farmers of Uganda
Farmers typically each have about 2 acres of land and coffee is their main cash crop. We have a team of agronomists working with the farmers who operate as groups throughout the area. Farmers have been shown how to improve their yields by using good agricultural practices. This also enables them to get the highest price for the best coffee.
It could be argued that poverty is synonymous with the central African nations. Creating social infrastructure has been paramount to the development within Africa. Despite the third-party support from foreign governments and charities, the fundamental issue of sustainability still remains.
Governments and charities subsidise the cost of constructing schools, hospitals or water systems but do not account for the maintenance and operation. Affording primary level education, adequate health care and simple basics like water and sanitation is a struggle for most people in Uganda. Infrastructure has been improved but the economic welfare of society does not match the expense of the improved standard of living.
The only method of rectifying this issue is income generation and increasing affordability. Donations and third-party involvement within the nation is not the long term solution. Over 90% of people living in poverty within Africa are involved directly or indirectly with farming. Improving the overall state of agriculture proves to be the most significant approach in addressing the reduction of poverty.
Big Dog Coffee work with a family run operation – Agri Evolve. Agri Evolve’s involvement within the Ugandan coffee sector moves into its 6th year. The Rwenzori mountains had unlocked potential for the cultivation of Arabica coffee, Agri Evolve moved to develop and create new opportunities for the local farmers.
Historically the coffee from the Rwenzori has had a poor reputation due to lack of processing infrastructure. The deficiencies within this region were identified by Agri Evolve and addressed from year one. Over the past 5 years Agri Evolve has significantly improved the infrastructure, knowledge and quality of crop. Improved value of crop ensures the farmers, and their families, enhance their overall standard of living.
Our Winter coffee ‘Candy’ has been an unequivocal reflection of the growth, dedication and development of the farmers and the subsequent coffee within the Rwenzori Mountains. The coffee has a story, one of struggle and aspiration to provide better. The values of Agri Evolve and the farmers of the Rwenzori’s are synonymous with our mission at Big Dog.
Coffee is a true investment, from farmer to consumer. It’s our responsibility to serve and provide our society with better. A reflection of the farmers of Uganda and their desire to improve the lives of their families and society.
The investment does not end with us, it’s only the beginning.