Bukonzo Organic Farmers Co-operative Union
Bukonzo Organic Farmers Co-operative Union started out as a group of six organic coffee farmers who were keen to spread their message of environmental awareness. Based in Kasese town in western Uganda, their main problem was the financial return on their crop.
With organic production being labour intensive, the farmers found they were not getting the best price compared to conventional coffee. By tapping into the Fairtrade market, Bukonzo has been able to overcome this problem, while also quadrupling their membership from 500 in 2011 to almost 2,000 farmers.
The co-operative has made a huge impact on the community, particularly on the lives of women, as they are now getting more involved with coffee production. Traditionally a 'man's crop', Bukonzo is one of the few coffee co-operatives in Africa which is managed by women.
Farmers are continuing to embrace organic methods, growing coffee under trees, and using goat manure instead of artificial fertilisers, which also helps to conserve the soil in this hilly and erosion-prone area. They have also encouraged members to co-own the coffee farms with their children, allowing the farms to be passed down through generations to maintain the coffee farming culture.
The future looks bright for Bukonzo as they action a three-year plan to increase their membership to 2,400, build 23 new micro washing stations, upgrade their coffee hulling plant, and also install their own coffee grading plant (which they currently outsource).
Bukonzo is using a Shared Interest loan to provide pre-finance to farmers. This year they plan to start installation of a coffee roasting plant so they can start selling roasted coffee to the local market.
Kabugho Josinta, General Manager, said: "The loan from Shared Interest has allowed us to double our coffee sales and pay the farmers on time. With the increased income from coffee sales, the farmers have been able to educate their children."