Uganda Trip August 2015

Commonfolk started 'The Cup That Counts' initiative in 2013 with the hope of establishing a sustainable coffee industry in some of the poorest countries in the world. This year we had the opportunity to visit Zukuka Coffee in Mbale Uganda, which is the not for profit company we established to train locals, and produce and export specialty coffee. With the help of our generous customers we have raised over $30,000 for the cause, and it was this money that purchased the land, equipment and coffee seedlings that helped establish Zukuka Coffee.

We left rainy Melbourne in mid-August and arrived in Entebbe Uganda around 24hrs later. It was a long trip but the promise of locally grown arabica coffee kept us going. We drove 6hrs to Mbale, a small city in the far east of Uganda situated beneath the slopes of Mt Elgon an extinct volcano that helped provide the region with the fertile soil perfect for growing specialty grade coffee. It didn't take us long to understand how injustice and poverty are a reality for so many of Uganda's poorest but we were also amazed by the rich natural abundance and beauty that was commonplace in the county know as the 'jewel' of Africa. 

We woke early the following day excited to visit the farms we had funded. There are two plots of land purchased for 'The Cup That Counts' demonstration farms - the first is high up the slopes of Mt Elgon (about 2000msl) and is a steep patch of cleared land that curves around the mountain planted with new seedlings - the second is lower down (1700msl) and is more densely forested, flatter, and has some established coffee plants already growing. The first thing that struck us as we surveyed the farms was just how many people were actively involved and affected by the farms. We got chatting to one farmer, who had been producing coffee for generations, and he said that our small plot that will only produce around a 1 tonne of coffee annually, will help support over 1000 locals.

For many of the local workers our demonstration farms helped rekindle their interest in the coffee industry. In the past corruption, foreign interference and lack of knowledge decimated the local coffee industry and made it unviable for farmers to try and produce coffee. Many of them turned to cash crops such as carrots and tomatoes, even though they don't grow well at such high altitudes, and can't be sold to foreign markets. This left the majority of locals living a literal 'hand to mouth' existence and shattered their dreams of a better life. Our demonstration farm provided hope because it offered training to farmers on how to produce a better quality coffee, it provides collective bargaining power through Zukuka Coffee, and introduces the entire community to foreign consumers (aka Commonfolk) who want to purchase their higher quality coffee. Already there is momentum building behind the local producers and many are beginning to implement better practices on their own coffee farms, while others are starting to replant and invest in coffee once again. Fingers crossed but in 2016 Commonfolk may even get access to the first official Zukuka Coffee / Cup that Counts Uganda single origin arabica coffee!

If you would like any more information regarding our trip to Uganda or if you want to become actively involved in 'The Cup That Counts' please get in touch at