Empowering Female Coffee Farmers in Uganda to Build Sustainable Livelihoods

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CoffeeFarming

This content is brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

In the district of Bududa, a region characterized by both lush landscapes and the threat of landslides in eastern Uganda, Mary Butsina, along with a growing cohort of fellow women farmers, is carving out a way of life centered around coffee cultivation. Holding a red bucket with the imposing Mount Elgon in the background, the 36-year-old shares how coffee has become the cornerstone of her livelihood, supporting her 10 children.

Mary’s journey into coffee farming started at the age of 10 when she began working alongside her father in the fields. The earnings from her father’s coffee harvest funded her education. Her connection to coffee deepened when she married, receiving 100 coffee trees as a wedding gift from her husband. Over time, Mary has taken the initiative to plant more than 300 coffee trees herself and has joined forces with a women’s cooperative. Explaining the motivation behind this initiative, Mary underscores, “Our aim was to reduce women’s reliance on men in the coffee industry.” The cooperative has around 100 female members, although husbands have also been welcomed, as they often own coffee plantations and provide crucial support to their wives’ endeavors. This dual membership structure has led to a total membership count of 200, while also sparking a ripple effect. Mary notes, “More women have been inspired to cultivate their own coffee.”

Every day, Mary rises early to harvest arabica coffee cherries. She acknowledges the labor-intensive nature of the task but emphasizes that concentration can make it more manageable. After collecting the ripe cherries, she separates the unhealthy ones by placing them in water, allowing damaged ones to float and be discarded. The good cherries are then processed through a hand-powered pulper, which removes the outer part, revealing the coffee “bean” inside. Subsequently, these beans undergo a two-day water fermentation process before being spread out on wooden racks in direct sunlight to dry.

Mary’s aspiration is to earn enough money to acquire her own vehicle, simplifying access to water.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DENIS ONYODI

Once dried, the beans are gathered and later picked up by Endiro Coffee, a social enterprise that collaborates with women-led organic farms. This partnership ensures that the coffee goes through milling, roasting, and grinding processes, rendering it ready for consumption.

In a prosperous season, Mary attests that she can earn up to 6,000,000 Ugandan shillings (approximately £1,300), a considerable income within this region. During other times of the year, she supplements her income by working as a tailor.

The journey for Bududa’s farmers has been marked by challenges, particularly the annual landslides spanning the past 15 years. In 2018, Mary suffered the loss of her mother’s house, several family members, and parts of her coffee plantations due to these natural disasters. She envisions a future in a sturdy home near a water source, eliminating the need for long treks to fetch water, and owning her own vehicle. Although these aspirations require time and financial dedication, Mary’s determination remains unswayed. “I’ve put in a lot of effort, and I don’t intend to stop. I want my earnings to work for me,” she asserts.

Endiro Coffee products, including coffee and sauces, are available for purchase at their cafes across Uganda, Kenya, and the US, as well as through online platforms.

Originally featured in the 20th issue (summer 2023) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

For those interested in subscribing to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine, click here. (Availability limited to select countries).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about CoffeeFarming

What is the main focus of this text?

The main focus of this text is on female coffee farmers in Uganda who are building their livelihoods around coffee cultivation, as highlighted by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

How are these women farmers adapting to challenges in their region?

These women farmers in Bududa, Uganda are using coffee cultivation to build their livelihoods despite challenges like landslides, as they form a women’s cooperative and collaborate with organizations like Endiro Coffee for support.

What role does the women’s cooperative play in this endeavor?

The women’s cooperative aims to reduce women’s dependency on men in the coffee industry. Around 100 women are members, while husbands are also allowed to join, supporting their wives’ coffee businesses.

How do the coffee farming processes unfold for these women?

The female farmers rise early to pick coffee cherries, separate healthy from unhealthy ones, and process the beans through a pulper. After drying, the beans are collected by Endiro Coffee, which further processes them for consumption.

What economic benefits are these women farmers experiencing?

In a good season, these women farmers can earn a significant income, up to 6,000,000 Ugandan shillings, which is around £1,300. This income helps support their families and livelihoods.

What challenges have these farmers faced in their journey?

The farmers in Bududa have encountered annual landslides for 15 years, which have caused damage to properties and coffee plantations. Despite these challenges, the women remain resilient in their pursuit of a better life through coffee cultivation.

How is this story reaching a wider audience?

The story of these women farmers and their coffee cultivation journey is being shared through National Geographic Traveller (UK), allowing a broader audience to learn about their inspiring efforts.

How can readers support or learn more about this initiative?

Readers can explore more about the initiative by referring to the 20th issue of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK) and possibly seeking ways to contribute or connect with organizations like Endiro Coffee that are involved in supporting these women farmers.

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5 comments

EcoWarrior August 16, 2023 - 1:00 pm

endiro coffee is doin it right! partnering up n supportin women-led farms. sustainable coffee for the win!

Reply
NatGeoFanatic August 16, 2023 - 1:43 pm

props to National Geographic Traveller for sheddin light on these inspiring stories. coffee, landslides, and strong women makin a mark!

Reply
DreamChaser August 16, 2023 - 2:38 pm

im dreamin of a world where these women’s hard work pays off big time. coffee dreams turnin into reality!

Reply
CoffeeLover123 August 16, 2023 - 7:41 pm

wow these women in uganda rly doin somethin amazing with coffee. supportin their families n buildin a future. big respect!

Reply
AdventurousSoul August 16, 2023 - 9:29 pm

those landslides sound like a real struggle. but these ladies aint givin up. coffee power for the win!

Reply

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