Mt Elgon Gibuzale
Kyagalanyi is one of the entities tapping into this budding potential and making it possible for smallholders to participate in specialty markets. In Uganda, they operate three sustainable Arabica washing stations. The largest of these washing stations is located in the Mt. Elgon region, a programme that incorporates processing infrastructure with agricultural extension services.
One of the key areas covered by the programme is Gibuzale. Situated at 1,900 metres above sea level, Gibuzale washing station is the highest and most remotely located washing station operated by Kyagalanyi. 934 smallholder farmers from around the region deliver coffee cherry here. They are organised into 41 UTZ certified farmer groups, many of which have been running since 2008. Roughly, a total of 270 smallholder producers delivered cherries for this particular Gibuzale lot.
All participating producers are smallholders whose families have grown coffee for generations. The average farm size is only around 1 hectare, and on this land most families also grow a variety of subsistence crops such as matooke (cooking banana) and fruit trees, beans, peas, millet and coco yam. Although matooke is also an important cash crop, coffee is the more valuable source of income for most families, particularly for livelihood improvement investment. It represents about 80% of the farm acreage and provides the cash flow required for large investments (school fees, livestock, land, house construction etc.), whereas matooke provides a week-on-week regular cash flow for smaller day-to-day purchases.
For many, Uganda might not the first country that comes to mind when thinking of high-quality Arabica: the country has been traditionally known as a producer of Robusta – in fact, some of the highest quality Robusta available on the market – and is reputed to even be its birthplace. However, in many regions of the country the challenges to quality Arabica production are certainly more a matter of infrastructure, history and knowledge than environment. For instance, the slopes of Mt. Elgon in the eastern reaches of the country (bordering Kenya) and on the slopes of the Mount Rwenzori, known locally as the ‘mountains of the moon’, in the Northwest bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are microclimates and terrains that are ideal for the production of high-quality coffee.