Bukonzo Farmers, coffee, Uganda (producer)
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 this production being labour intensive, the farmers were not getting the best price. By tapping into the Fairtrade market, Bukonzo has been able to overcome this problem, while also increasing their membership from 500 to almost 2,000.
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Kabugho Jostina, 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.”
Farming for the future
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.
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.
The impact of Covid-19
Bukonzo was one of the first producer groups to supplement government supplies using their Fairtrade Premium. In response to the pandemic, they have donated sugar, maize flour, cooking oil, beans and soap to the local government taskforce.
Tragically, since hearing of Bukonzo’s efforts in helping the local community, we received news that they were facing life-threatening weather conditions due to heavy rainfall, which has caused severe flooding to the Kasese District.
Josinta told us: “Following heavy rains from the Rwenzori Mountains, five rivers simultaneously burst their banks at around 2am on 7th May. We believe that 1,200 Bukonzo farmers have been affected in Kisinga, Kyondo, Kyarumba, and Maliba.
“The situation of the displaced in these areas is serious, many homes are concentrated villages which are in the low lands and along the river basins - they are now completely flooded. The Kasese District Disaster Team is reported to have registered over 35,000 displaced families, with some sleeping in the open air.
“Families reported that the floods were seen at night, which was very threatening to them and most of the properties were swept away. They had nowhere to run, since they could not tell the direction of the water. “The piped water to some communities is blocked and now people do not have access to drinking water so they are made to move long distances to search for clean water. “The farmers lost coffee and also food crop fields, therefore, food packs will be a high need and materials for shelter.”
Following this Bukonzo became the first beneficiary of our charitable arm, Shared Interest Foundation's Livelihood Security Fund.
GENDER EQUALITY: FOR A PEACEFUL, PROSPEROUS AND SUSTAINABLE WORLD
There is growing global evidence of women owning or co-owning their farms and managing their own land. This is good news as research indicates that unequal ownership affects women’s ability to access, use, control, and benefit from land, thereby limiting their economic empowerment and financial security. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that closing the gender gap in agriculture would reduce the number of undernourished people by up to 150 million.
As Josinta Kabugho, General Manager at BOCU (Bukonzo Organic Farmers Cooperative Union) says: “Gender equality is important because there is equal access to resources, which promotes empowerment.”
Josinta describes her role as being responsible for overseeing all of the day-to-day activities. She explained: “I have not had challenges but opportunities as being a woman leader; partners have been motivated to partner with BOCU because of the trust that women have. I have seen myself being confident in doing co-operative activities and the members have built trust in me.”
Josinta explained that the co-operative takes a family-led approach to safeguarding farming for the next generation. She said: “We are proud to make sustainability the focus for all of our activities and there is an abundance of life and diversity to be found on our farms.
“We have initiated savings and lending associations for men, women and youth, energy saving stoves for households, water harvesting tanks benefiting the households and trainings also are targeted to men, women and youth.”
We asked Josinta what she would say to young women who want to work in the coffee sector. She replied: “I would
encourage the young women to work in the coffee industry for sustainability because most of the people involved are becoming old and if they are not replaced by the younger generation then the coffee industry would be at a stake in the future.
“I would also encourage them to take leadership positions so that the women can also come up as successful leaders.”
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