Coffee has been grown on Mt Elgon’s red volcanic soils for decades. In 1998 The Gumutindo Coffee Enterprise was established between Twin and the Bugisu Co-operative Union (BCU) – Twin’s initial trading partner on Mt Elgon. Its goal was to ensure a reliable supply of high quality coffee, whilst securing long term returns to farmers.
The Association has come a long way since our first purchases in 2001! From small beginnings it now consists of eleven primary co-operative societies on the lower slopes of Mt Elgon, having a membership of 7000 farmers.
Their new factory employs over 100 woman in conditions ideal for processing top quality coffee, and now manages all its own primary processing and selection with staff and farmers also engaged in regular coffee cupping to constantly improve quality.
We use the farmer’s own internal control systems, developed to assure consumers that each bag of coffee is grown organically and is Fairtrade, to also identify the women’s coffee.
This special selection process ensures we get the best coffee and the women make their own spending decisions.
Mary Nabugobelo is a pioneer farmer. She tells the story of her first steps to supply coffee:
“I first heard about Gumutindo offering a good price for quality coffee in 2002. Without wasting any time I joined my society at Bumayoga. I got a good price for the coffee and a second payment which I used to pay for my daughter’s tuition at Makerere University. At the society my fellow members elected me onto the committee and as a delegate to Gumutindo Board. I think they elected me because they know that I am hardworking and a woman who is competing with men to produce good quality coffee. My responsibility is to teach other women farmers to produce good quality coffee and to advise them to plant more coffee trees.”
Gumutindo now also has 4 women directors on it’s 7 person Board and 50% of the staff are women. Whilst a much smaller percentage of women have formal membership of the Coop, everyone recognises that there is still a big challenge ahead.