Django Coffee Co. - 01/03/2023
Our Ugandan Coffee: Importer Focus
We work with some amazing farmers and importers at Django Coffee and only work with partners that share our values of sustainability and being socially conscious. One such importer is Agri Evolve Ltd.
Agri Evolve is an agricultural Social Enterprise working with farmers in Uganda with the aim of improving yields, improving profits, and improving lives. They are helping coffee farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their coffee crops and provide a good market by paying good prices and paying promptly.
It’s a family business, with Jonny the MD heading up the team in Uganda, and Martin providing the link in the UK. We first met Martin at Manchester Coffee Festival in 2017 and have since built up a great relationship and have roasted some of our favourite coffees. We will be heading out to Uganda this April to visit the farms and farmers that we have been purchasing from over the last 5 years and to see the work and investment that has been carried out by Agri Evolve.
Agri Evolve has grown steadily over the past 4 years and now has a team of 60 full-time staff in Uganda. Field Officers and Agronomists carry out training with the farmers whilst the production team make sure everything runs smoothly at Kisinga Coffee Station. The quality team have the responsibility of monitoring and evaluating every stage of the process to ensure the highest standards are achieved. They used to work closely with an established Coffee Exporter, Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd but have recently been able to acquire funding and set themselves up to export through their own company, this has cut out additional costs which means more money has been invested in the local communities as well as the building of their very own mill.
Arabica Coffee has been grown in the Rwenzori region for as long as anyone can remember, and the conditions of high rainfall, the altitude from 1300 to over 2000 masl and volcanic soils are perfect for the production of high-quality speciality arabica coffee.Practically all coffee is grown by smallholder farmers who have coffee trees growing in their fields alongside other crops. The typical size of a plot is between 1 and 2 acres and the main varietals are SL28 and SL14 with a range of other, older varietals. This mix of varietals contributes to the complexity of the coffee produced.In the past, coffee from this area didn't have the best reputation. Poor harvesting and processing and long delays in processing and shipping resulted in an inconsistent, unreliable and low-grade product. Agri Evolve has been committed to turning that around, and in just a few years they have seen a significant improvement.
Motivating the farmers to harvest only red cherries by paying top price for the very best cherries is where it starts, and then careful processing and adhering to the highest standards means that they can offer bright, fruity and exciting coffee which regularly scores 85 and above.
They recently set up their ACE 2030 initiative which is a 10 year programme, emphasising the integral link between Agriculture, Community and the Environment. It sets out their involvement in each area and defines to strategy to tackle the issues for the next decade.It shows how work has an impact not only on farmers but on communities throughout this region, and the environment where they live and work.
Broad aims have been established for ACE 2030, and more detailed targets are set for each year.
"Farming for a better future’
Agriculture is at the very heart of the community in the Rwenzoris. Farming to produce food and cash crops is the main daily activity for 80% of the population. The work in the coffee sector over the last 5 years has resulted in significant development. It has encouraged an open and transparent market, provided training and support for farmers and created employment for many local people. Investment has come from overseas which has transformed the infrastructure for coffee processing and seen growth and opportunity throughout the local area.
Community is very important to Agri Evolve. They are very conscious of their role, position and responsibility within the local community and are committed to being involved in supporting the community to the best of their ability and are involved with over 10,000 farmers and their families. Employment has been created for many builders, suppliers and traded with many local small businesses. Community projects are carried out on behalf of roasters from around the world which have provided pit latrines for a local school, a water borehole and support to a local organisation providing craft training for young people who have dropped out of school. Money has also been donated to relief efforts following local flooding which destroyed homes and infrastructure.
The environment is perhaps one of the most important words of the 21st century. Everyone is aware of the threat to the environment with global issues of pollution and carbon emissions. Everyone is conscious of climate change and the effect there has been on local weather. The seasons are less reliable, and weather patterns are more extreme and unpredictable. Severe flooding throughout the region in May 2020 focused Agri Evolve on the issues and the need for more action. They established community tree nurseries to raise and plant 40000 trees in 2021.
They have brought together a new team to focus specifically on community and environmental issues, with the strongest of links to their existing work. Using their existing position within the worldwide coffee community to access support and funding, they hope to achieve their aims by 2030. Below are what they are doing to tackle the issues.
To see a steady increase in ‘Living Income’ for farmers in the Rwenzoris. To enable farmers to earn an income that will ensure that they can provide for the needs of their families; a good education for children and proper medical care whenever it is needed.
By continuing to increase the quality of coffee produced, to raise the profile of Rwenzori Arabica Coffee which will be reflected in a sustained increase in the recognised value of all Rwenzori coffee, and for all farmers.
To be able to deal with every coffee farmer throughout the region, if they so choose, through their network of Coffee Stations, Buying Centres and Demonstration Gardens
Throughout this decade they will move into additional agricultural produce, to provide opportunities for farmers growing other crops.
They will develop and promote systems that enhance sustainability and resilience, especially for food crops grown in this region. This could include irrigation, post harvest storage, and improved varieties.
To support community projects and initiatives using profit from operations as a business both in Uganda and the UK. They add 40p for every Kg of coffee sold in the UK to the ACE2030 Community Fund for community and environmental projects. They focus on the following;
Clean water for local communities, from capped springs to boreholes as appropriate.
Gender Equality and Education programmes. To encourage strong families with shared responsibilities and opportunities for all.
Youth Teams. To enable young people to establish their own businesses and to encourage entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector. Support is also given to smaller local community initiatives as appropriate.
Starting with the farmers they work with they challenge and encourage them to be more conscious of environmental issues and to farm in a way to reduce environmental damage, and protect the local environment for future generations. Support is given and delivered to projects in the following areas;
Tree planting. To reduce climate change, to reverse de-forestation, to reduce soil erosion. Starting with tree nurseries, and working with local farmers, to produce and plant 5,000,000 trees over the next 10 years.
Energy Efficient Stoves. Arrange the making and use of 10,000 energy-efficient stoves to reduce the consumption of firewood.
Climate data and Weather Forecasting. Collect local weather data to contribute to the monitoring of climate change and investigate and promote the use of more accurate weather forecasting for the benefit of local farmers.
Flood mitigation. To help local communities plan and prevent the worst effects of flooding, through effective planting of trees and other plants.
Environmental Footprint. To reduce any negative environmental impact on the local and regional communities.
Monitoring, evaluation and reporting the ACE2030 Programme will be carried out by senior members of Agri Evolve teams and by members of the local community. The results will be published annually.
We also can't wait to update you and share photos from our trip to the Rwenzoris. We are very excited to see how Agri Evolve has developed and grown since that first meeting at Manchester Coffee Festival.