Fairtrade Coffee from Uganda: Gumutindo Cooperative
Approximately 80% of Uganda’s population are involved in agriculture, and the country is the world’s eighth largest coffee producer. Ensuring that small scale coffee producers receive a fair price for their coffee and some protection from fluctuating global coffee prices offers an important way to assist families out of poverty.
Gumutindo is a Ugandan coffee cooperative which has experienced massive growth over the last few years, largely thanks to Fairtrade. Willington Wamayeye, Gumutindo’s managing Director, explains that the cooperative has been able to increase their sales from 54 metric tonnes of coffee in 1998 to more than 1,000 metric tonnes today. Irish Aid works with Fairtrade to help farmers to get a fairer price for their crops.
The word ‘gumutindo’ means ‘excellent quality’ in Lugiso, the local language in the Mbale district. Gumutindo is situated on the lush upland valleys of Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano on the eastern border of Uganda.
Having started as an unregistered association in 1998, Gumutindo registered as a cooperative union in 2003 and obtained its own export licence. The cooperative is made up of sixteen primary societies with more than 7,000 members, to which individual farmers sell their beans.
At the time that Gumutindo was set up the price of Ugandan Arabica coffee was falling, and Fairtrade offered higher prices to the farmers. But in order to receive the higher prices the farmers had to ensure that their coffee was high quality. “When world prices were low during the early stages of our growth, Fairtrade prices were higher, allowing us to offer fair prices to our farmers. This acted as an incentive for them to grow good quality coffee. You can’t sell low grade coffee through Fairtrade,” says Wamayeye.
Gumutindo has concentrated heavily on Fairtrade to drive its growth, so much so that nearly 100% of its coffee is now Fairtrade. Gumutindo works closely with farmers and buyers to continually improve the quality of the coffee. “We feel the activities on the farm are just as important as those after the beans leave the farm,” says Wamayeye.
“We discovered that most of the work on the farm is done by women so we wanted them to be involved in management and marketing, from the farm right up to production and delivery.”
In addition to their ongoing efforts to improve the quality of their coffee, Gumutindo also insist that women are represented at all stages of the coffee production process. “Half of our board of management and 60% of field officers are women. We discovered that most of the work on the farm is done by women so we wanted them to be involved in management and marketing, from the farm right up to production and delivery.”
Gumuntido coffee cooperative is an example of how Irish Aid, in partnership with Fairtrade and Solidaridad, helps to improve opportunities for small scale farmers. By assisting farmers and cooperatives to improve on their quality, we are also helping them to earn a decent price for their crop and to ensure that they remain competitive in the market.
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