For many, Uganda might not the first country that comes to mind when thinking of high-quality Arabica coffee. The country has been traditionally known as a producer of Robusta. However, in many regions of the country, the challenges are more a matter of infrastructure, history and knowledge than the environment. For instance, the slopes of Mt. Elgon in the country’s East (bordering Kenya) are ideally suited for the production of high-quality speciality coffee.
The locals believe that God lives on Mt Elgon – far beyond where people venture – and that when he is happy, he delivers rain to the bountiful gardens clinging to the mountainside. Indeed, these green, fertile hillsides are very nearly divine territory for the production of spectacular coffees, and producers are increasingly realising their potential.
Kyagalanyi is one of the entities tapping into this budding potential, making it possible for smallholders to participate in speciality markets. In Uganda, they operate three sustainable Arabica washing stations, all of which are UTZ certified. The largest of these washing stations is located in the Mt. Elgon region, a programme that incorporates processing infrastructure with agricultural extension services.
General Info – Uganda Kapchorwa
Farm: Mt Elgon Kapchorwa
Varietal: SL28, SL 34, & some SL14, Nyasaland & Bugisu
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,600 to 2,050 above sea level
Owner: 997 farmers – members of Mt Elgon Washed Arabica Scheme of Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd.
Town/City: Kapchorwa district, Sipi sub-county
Region: Eastern Uganda – Mount Elgon region
One of the areas covered by the Mt Elgon scheme is Kapchorwa. The Kapchorwa group is formed around Kaphorwa washing station and represents some of the highest altitude coffees from Mt Elgon. In this area, Kyagalanyi permanent extension staff work with 997 smallholder farmers organised into 35 UTZ certified farmer groups. Most of these farmer groups have been working together since 2008. A total of 175 farmers delivered cherries for this Kapchorwa lot.
All participating farmers are smallholders whose families have grown coffee for generations. The average farm size is only around 1 hectare, and on this most families also farm a variety of subsistence crops such as matooke (cooking banana) and fruit trees, beans and peas. Although matooke is also an important cash crop, coffee is the more valuable source of income for most families. It represents about 77% of the farm acreage and provides the cash flow required for large investments (school fees, livestock, land, house construction etc.), whereas matooke provides week-on-week regular cash flow for smaller day-to-day purchases.
With such small plots of coffee, but with coffee playing such an important economic role for so many families, it is not surprising that coffee production on Mt Elgon comes with challenges. Rainfall is becoming more irregular, with frequent droughts and punishing rainstorms. Temperatures are rising across the board. In these unreliable circumstances, Kyagalanyi plays a very important role. Not only has the team worked to promote ecological buffer zones and shade tree planting in the coffee farms, which helps regulate temperature and curtail erosion from sudden deluges, they also provide training in a wide range of agricultural topics.
A large field team provides a range of extension work to help coffee farmers improve coffee production and their livelihoods. As coffee yields are still far below optimal, farmers can easily still double productivity. Group training, individual household training, coffee youth teams, demo plots, model farms, coffee nurseries and free cherry collection are all services that the Kyagalanyi team offers to help smallholder families make the most of their land. Improved farm management through these training will make the trees more resilient to climate change and overall off-set any yield reductions due to changing weather patterns.
Environmental protection is very important, as well. The Kapchorwa area borders the Mt Elgon national park. Park boundaries are clearly indicated and guarded by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, but Kyagalanyi knows that ecological preservation across the board is very important for long-term sustainability. In May 2018, the farmer support programme of Kyagalanyi was awarded a Sustainable Standard Setter Award by Rainforest Alliance / UTZ. They are the first coffee company in Africa to have won this prestigious award.
In the cup expect orange marmalade and honey flavours with a silky body. This coffee is best suited to Aeropress, siphon and pourover. Enjoy a cup at Origin in De Waterkant and Bree. Grab a bag of beans for your home or office. View our full coffee offering here.