The Cup That Counts - Uganda Series - Part One



Commonfolk opened its doors on 26th January 2013 in a big shed in the Mornington industrial estate. The goal was to source and roast the best coffee the world had to offer and sell it through the cafe and as beans to other cafes and home baristas. From the outset the plan was to donate a percentage of profits to a charity that would feed back into the industry. It didn't take long before we realised that our plan to donate a percentage of required making profits - and profits can be pretty lean early on in a small business. So we had a choice; don't donate until we were a profitable business, or donate 20c from every cup of coffee we sold. We went with the latter. 

We wanted to donate to a charity that would promote fairness, sustainability and excellence, but we struggled to find one that focused on all three. We discussed our problem with a good friend, Vinnie Munysoi, who is a Director of a community development organisation, JENGA, in Mbale, Uganda. 

During our conversation, Vinnie recalled how his local region of Wanale on the slopes of Mt Elgon used to produce some of the world's best coffee. In the 1970’s high quality arabica coffee was a major export for Uganda, but production in his region had significantly dropped due to international competition, lack of investment, exploitation, and corruption.

We explained to Vinnie that a new breed of coffee consumer was emerging, and small specialty roasters (like Commonfolk) were looking to establish direct trade with quality focused farmers. Vinnie believed that this could be the salvation of his local coffee industry. 

And from that conversation, we began planning our own project.

The concept was relatively simple; establish a small scale demonstration farm to help the local farmers improve their techniques and processing, and set up a coffee co-op (Zukuka Bora Coffee) that would process and export the farmer's green coffee. With improved coffee quality and direct access to western specialty roasters, the local community could once again rely on coffee as a sustainable source of income. The concept would be led by community development volunteer Dave Bishop in Uganda, and the Commonfolk team back in Aus. About a month after opening Commonfolk we launched The Cup That Counts and started to put aside the money raised from the sale of coffee to donate to the project. 

The story continues here

If you would like to get involved you can visit The Cup That Counts page