Kisinga Natural, Uganda
All our coffee is roasted to order, every Tuesday.
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Roast Level: Medium
Process: Washed and dried on raised beds
Varietal: SL28, SL 34, & some SL14 & Nyasaland
Roaster's Notes: Our first natural Ugandan coffee, from this fantastic emerging coffee producing country. With an incredible aroma of blueberry muffins, this is a sweet, juicy coffee that makes for a full bodied filter, leaving you feeling like you've tucked into a bag of wine gums!
Producer: 2,000 farmers - members of Rwenzori Arabica Scheme Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd
Region: Rwenzori, Western Uganda
Altitude: 1,700 - 2,200 metres
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 environment. The Rwenzori Mountains in the country’s West (bordering Democratic Republic of Congo) are just one of many regions in the country ideally suited to the production of high-quality specialty coffee.
Sir Winston Churchill first described Uganda as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, while admiring its “magnificent variety of form and colour, profusion of brilliant life and its vast scale”. Benefiting from a bi-modal rainfall season and high altitudes, the country has a pleasant climate all year round and is lush with greenery. The mountain ranges to the east and west are home to Uganda’s Arabica farmers; Robusta is produced on the central plateau.
The Rwenzoris are famously known as the ‘Mountains of the Moon’. They stretch for 120 kilometres along the Western Uganda border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The snow capped peaks reach over 5,000 metres above sea level and support glaciers that are the start of many rivers flowing down the slopes (including one source of the Nile). The slopes of this range is one area where the government of Uganda is promoting coffee production as a key driver for rural development.
The area is home to the Bakonzo tribe, a people who have farmed the foothills of the Rwenzori for as long as they can remember. The high altitude, fertile soils and plentiful rainfall provide perfect growing conditions for Arabica coffee. Coffee offers the Bakonzo farmers a stable income that allows them to support their families and develop their homes. The coffee is grown under the shade of banana trees, while the mixed farms also produce cassava, maize, beans and groundnuts for local consumption and additional income.
Bukonzo county is divided into many sub-counties including Kisinga, Kyondo, Kyarumba, Munkunyu, Mahango, Nyakatonzi and Isango. The area has many small towns situated on the lowlands, which are joined by good road networks. These towns provide ideal locations for coffee processing and are home to many farmer groups, primary processors and it is in one of these towns, Kisinga, where Kyagalanyi has located its first Coffee Station in the area. At this station, Kyagalanyi is focusing on high quality speciality natural Arabica.
Most farmers have around 1 hectare of land, and all work on the farm is done by hand, usually by immediate family members. Families work together in groups, usually community based but sometimes also extended family groups, to process and market their coffee, an approach known as ‘share farming’. This helps them to improve processing, better control quality and increases their marketing ability.
Kyagalanyi is one of the entities tapping into this budding potential and making it possible for smallholders to participate in specialty markets. In Uganda, they operate three sustainable Arabica washing stations, all of which are UTZ certified. Their Kisinga Coffee Station presents to farmers a programme that incorporates processing infrastructure with agricultural extension services.
Kyagalanyi aims to build long term relationships with the groups in the region and works closely with them to develop the value chain. The work in the Bakonzo County has only recently begun, but already Kyagalanyi is assisting farmers with better market information, improved prices for better quality and advice on how farmers can improve their primary processing techniques. This area will soon become part of the Kyagalanyi Coffee Services program which aims to sustainably increase coffee production and quality.
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 in Bakonzo County 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 plans to play a very important role. In other regions, the team has 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 in this region has just begun to provide 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 trainings, individual household trainings, 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 trainings will make the trees more resilient to climate change and overall off-set any yield reductions due to changing weather patterns.