Most specialty coffee roasters understand the importance of paying appropriate prices for green coffee.
That said, it’s important to note that coffee pricing is not only dependent on a fluctuating c-price, which is in turn, determined by the strength of the US dollar itself. For instance, the effects of climate change and global warming can also cause a spike in coffee prices.
This can have a ripple effect on pricing across the globe, affecting farmers in far-reaching regions such as Uganda. So, what can these farmers do to ensure the longevity of their coffee production?
I spoke with Edwin Kiggundu and Jonathan Ssajjabbi from Dream Coffee Uganda to learn how they’re exporting from Mount Elgon in order to bring change, sustainability, and longevity to the coffee-growing communities.
Promoting sustainable coffee farming in Uganda
Edwin and Jonathan grew up in Uganda and attended school together. The duo always dreamed of creating change within their community. Once they saw how many people grew coffee in the Mt Elgon region, the pair realised their dream: to help the farmers build relationships that could get high-quality coffee to market with good pricing.
Dream Coffee Uganda was then launched during the Covid-19 pandemic. The focus was to ensure every coffee sale directly impacts the community and provides a sustainable income for the growers.
“There are multiple ways in which we assist local farmers and producers to make their lives easier,” Edwin explains. “For instance, we pay premium prices for the coffee and provide bonuses each time the yield is better than the previous year. The bonus, coupled with the premium pricing, helps to sustain business for our suppliers.”
More so, Dream Coffee Uganda are committed to helping coffee farmers improve the quality of their product in order to sell it for a higher price.
Jonathan explains the brand has “gone in with an advisory package alongside other non-government organisations (NGOs) to advise them about their farming practices.
“We want to educate them about farming practices and standards so they can improve their methods and can get better quality out of their crops. Additionally, it is to ensure that everyone is held accountable for their role along the supply chain,” he adds.
Educating coffee farmers about the benefits of sustainability
Simple changes to farming practices, such as irrigation and soil treatments, can alter the characteristics of the bean, and ultimately the taste of the final cup. More so, these changes can affect the market value of the coffee.
Additionally, consistent, high quality crop yields can help build sustainable and long-lasting relationships with buyers around the world.
Currently, Dream Coffee exports high-grade arabica and commercial robusta to various countries, including the UK and Algeria. Edwin explains that in working closely with farmers, the team educates them about what is actually required for the coffee to be considered specialty.
It is crucial for coffee farmers to understand that the responsibility falls largely on them. This is why Dream Coffee Uganda has come in, to help bridge the gap between understanding and communication. Beyond this, the brand also supports the community where possible, by aiding with school fees and medical bills.
The brand has also partnered with an NGO called Friends of Mothers to help support women in the community. This was after discovering the significant gender gap in wages on the coffee producer’s side.
Additionally, the brand is working to bridge the gap between roasters and producers to allow for better communication and full transparency. One of the largest impacts on coffee farmers is global warming, and Dream Coffee uses its network and resources to support producers in managing the impact.
“We’re also educating them on farm management when it comes to climate change and global warming,” Jonathan says. “For instance, we’ve advised farmers to keep a certain percentage of stock in stores so they’re able to weather through times when the yield isn’t as good.
“Granted, the coffee may be from a previous season, but they’ll still be able to sell it and sustain themselves.” Additionally, Dream Coffee Uganda encourages farmers to diversify their crop base wisely
The brand educates farmers on how to separate crops to ensure what they are growing outside of coffee doesn’t contaminate the product, but makes a positive contribution to their overall income. This could be farming tea and maize or even owning livestock such as cows, goats, and chickens.
Could ‘tipping’ coffee farmers help future-proof the industry?
One of the more exciting programmes Dream Coffee Uganda is working on is enabling clients to tip coffee farmers directly.
“We have a system in place that allows our clients to tip coffee farmers directly through a QR code,” Edwin explains. “We help the farmers set up bank accounts so they can receive the money directly from whoever is enjoying their coffee around the world.”
This is just another example of how the brand communicates directly with producers and buyers to ensure transparency is kept throughout the supply chain.
Beyond this, the brand has a pie chart which demonstrates exactly where the cost of the coffee goes with every purchase. This allows both producers and roasters to be empowered by knowing where the funds are being allocated.
Edwin believes specialty coffee roasters should ask questions when sourcing green coffee. They should find out how traders are supporting producers and helping them get the most value out of their crops.
For consumers to continue to enjoy coffee in the future, a shift needs to happen. The focus needs to be on preserving resources and using capital to ensure farmers have what is required to produce high-quality coffee without sacrificing their own livelihoods.
Another way specialty coffee roasters can boost sustainability is by ensuring they are not contributing to climate change. For example, investing in sustainable packaging that is recyclable or compostable promotes a circular economy, which can help reduce the pressure on natural resources.
Single-use plastics are one of the most significant contributors to global warming and climate change. By investing in coffee packaging that can be reused or disposed of responsibly will help the coffee industry work towards a more sustainable future.
At MTPak Coffee, we strive to promote a circular economy by providing specialty coffee roasters and cafes with sustainable packaging solutions. Our range of cost-effective, eco-friendly coffee packaging helps reduce the environmental impact of your product, allowing you to concentrate on supporting your green coffee suppliers.
Images by Dream Coffee Uganda