In Ugandan smallholder coffee farmer communities, Farmer Organizations, also known as Cooperatives, have proven effective in increasing families’ household income through better market access and better prices. They also play a key role in building coffee farmers’ resilience to climate change. However, many Cooperatives in Uganda do not operate as strong and professional enterprises. They have some gaps in their governance, policies, and operations including poor recordkeeping, insufficient financial management, and gender imbalances within their leadership and membership. This ultimately weakens the services that the Farmer Organizations offer to their members including training on how to improve their resilience to climate change.
International Coffee Partners (ICP) has been active in Uganda since 2004 and to date has strengthened over 550 Farmer Organizations. In the current project phase which began in October 2020, ICP is supporting 12 Cooperatives that represent over 5,000 farming households in the districts of Luwero, Nakaseke, and Nakasongola to access training on Cooperative principles, governance, and finance. As a result, all the Cooperatives have created and began implementing their development plans containing strategies to address these gaps.
Through our implementing partner Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS), the Farmer Organizations have also been supported to come up with gender inclusivity strategies. This has enabled more women to become members of Cooperatives and therefore to contribute to household income and have a say in how their families’ income from coffee is spent: education for children, health care, home improvements, investments in good agricultural practices and climate-smart practices etc. The gender inclusivity strategies have also empowered more women to become confident leaders in their Farmer Organizations and communities.
“Through the gender training offered by HRNS, more women are now taking active roles in our Cooperative leadership. Our male counterparts are also now appreciating the fact that women can lead and contribute to the growth and development of the Cooperative.”
One of the frontrunners in gender mainstreaming is Kyalugondo Farmers’ Cooperative Society. During their first Annual General Meeting (AGM) they elected a well-structured management team inclusive of women and youth. This is in line with the standards of Cooperative governance which ICP trained them on and supported them to implement. As a result, 45% of the Cooperative’s leaders are female. With more female leaders, their policies can be influenced to encourage more female membership. Today, 42% of Kyalugongo Cooperative’s members are females.
Female leaders of the Kyalugongo Cooperative brainstorming during a meeting
Furthermore, the Cooperative is conducting quarterly committee meetings and documenting meeting minutes in a professional manner. They have also developed an annual operational work plan and budget and are keeping records – which they had never done before. As a result, they have strengthened their production. From the last marketing season, they have increased the amount of bulked coffee by 0.5 tons. This increase can be traced to the records they have started keeping.
Additionally, the climate resilience of the farmer organization has been strengthened. Using the coffee&climate (c&c) methodology, ICP supported the Cooperative’s leaders and farmer trainers to create a climate change adaptation action plan. The action plan details the climate hazards specific to their region and adaptation options that their members can afford. With the action plan, the Cooperative’s farmer trainers have been equipped to strengthen the adoption of climate-smart practices of their members. Ultimately, this has improved the quantity and quality of the coffee that the Cooperative’s members bulk – leading to even better prices.
“At the end of 2021, our Cooperative filed annual returns at the local registrar’s office. As a result, we obtained a certificate allowing us to operate permanently as a Cooperative. This is particularly important because it will enable the youth in our Cooperative to continue to improve our farming community after we the parents retire. The future of our Cooperative and welfare of the members is bright!”
As the ICP project continues to strengthen Farmer Organizations in Uganda, the farming families and communities can become more climate change resilient, productive, and sustainable. The overall goal is to improve the livelihoods of more farming families and increase the economic vitality of the entire region through the cooperation of Cooperatives and other players in the coffee value chain.