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Businesswomen can energise Uganda’s coffee industry

Jennifer looks up nervously as the rain hammers down on her roof.

“My house is built out of mud and water. When it rains heavily mud drops from the walls. The walls could collapse. Yesterday, there was a heavy downpour, we were scared.”

Jennifer is extremely house proud. A myriad of decorations adorn her ceiling and choice newspaper cuttings are stuck to her walls. These decorations don’t just beautify the house, they serve a practical purpose.

“My walls are covered in newspaper to catch the mud and soil when it rains.”

Jennifer looks after the three children of her deceased sister in Kanungu, western Uganda. A brick house would provide them with a safe place to live.

“I would like to buy a new house, bricks are permanent and are more resilient to shocks and bad weather.”

Financially, a brick house wasn’t an option. Jennifer was entirely reliant on the proceeds from her two-acre coffee and banana farm to support her and her nieces and nephews. Working alone, the money she earned wasn’t enough to pay for school fees and food, let alone a new house.

A lack of finance, agricultural knowledge and support meant that Jennifer’s coffee yields had fallen in recent years. “When my yields dropped so did the price of coffee. I still had the expenditure of the orphans, and I couldn’t afford to maintain the farm. I started losing money. I almost made the decision to cut down my coffee trees.” Jennifer.

Growing better quality
Farm Africa worked in Uganda to help coffee farmers like Jennifer earn more from their efforts. We provided training in agricultural techniques such as pruning, spacing and weed control that help farmers to sustainably boost yields and improve the quality of their coffee.

By improving coffee quality, Jennifer was able to become a certified farmer, earning her access to a more lucrative and stable market.

Growing profits
The low prices farmers secure from middlemen, and lack of cooperation and coordination between farmers, undermine coffee profits.

“The middlemen who buy the coffee exploit us. The lack of cooperatives means there is a lack of price stability,” said Jennifer.

With matched funding from the UK government for Farm Africa’s Coffee is Life appeal, Farm Africa expanded our work in western Uganda to give 2,000 female coffee farmers like Jennifer the support they needed to thrive in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

The project built the skills of a new tranche of community-minded middlewomen. The project upskilled the staff of four agricultural cooperatives and trained women to occupy positions of responsibility within them, teaching women how to properly trade and process coffee as well as fundamental business skills.

“I want to see the difference between selling to local traders and selling through a cooperative. I expect the cooperative to find better buyers than the traders,” commented Jennifer.

Strong women, strong communities
Putting Kanungu’s coffee industry in the hands of trained businesswomen turns a stagnant industry into a thriving one, providing benefits for all.

In Uganda, women provide the bulk of the agricultural labour but rarely occupy positions of responsibility within agribusinesses or cooperatives. Farm Africa’s Coffee is Life appeal helped women break the sector’s glass ceiling and unleashed women’s potential to push forward one of Uganda’s most important industries.

By building Kanungu’s coffee industry we helped women like Jennifer build brick houses and financial security.

Farm Africa's coffee project in Uganda received funding from the UK government, who matched donations to Farm Africa’s Coffee is Life appeal.

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