Scottish roasting company Matthew Algie has secured “six-figure” assistance to help coffee growers in the Mount Elgon region in Eastern Uganda, improving farming practices and creating new market opportunities for Gumutindo coffees.
The deal is through the Fair Development Fund, run by Comic Relief and UK grocery and cafe chain Sainsbury’s, and will benefit the Gumutindo Sustainability Project, an organization of some 10,000 farmers representing 16 societies that organized in 1998. In recent years, Gumutindo coffee has attracted the attention of some high-profile roasters including Blue Bottle Coffee, Equal Exchange and Just Coffee Cooperative.
With the new funds, team from Matthew Algie will be working on the ground along with the UK-based ethical trading organization Twin to help farmers adopt environmentally sustainable practices, meet multiple certification standards, increase capacity, and improve quality and premium market access. The program will have a particular emphasis on training female farmers and working toward gender equality throughout the farming societies.
Twin and Sainsbury’s partnered for a similar program last year at the Sopacdi Cooperative in the Democratic Republic of Congo, creating a direct line from the cooperative to Sainsbury’s cafes. The project was recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association in April as winner of the 2014 Sustainability Award.
“We want to use our expertise to support the implementation of change across the board. From simple enhancements such as improved harvesting and coffee cherry processing that will develop the quality of the coffee, right down to buying and roasting the coffee – with a view to Sainsbury’s cafés brewing it for their customers,” Matthew Algie said in an announcement last week. “If Gumutindo can put the best agricultural practices in place, we can, in turn, ensure higher yields and improve cup quality, while at the same time improving sustainability through climate change adaptation.”
The program is in part a response to immediate weather events that have affected growers in the Mount Elgon region.
“Deforestation and devastating landslides are triggering soil erosion on small farms scattered across the foothills,” says Xavier Hamon, Twin’s climate and environment project officer. “To tackle this, we’ll be working to strengthen the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative and provide training in areas such as shade management and soil and water conservation.”