Coffee Is Social™

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Cupping Lab Bukonzo Joint, Uganda with Twin Trading

Over 20 years ago, many rural communities in Western Uganda’s remote Rwenzori Mountains had no connections to international coffee markets. Women carried out much of the work, but few had any ownership stake in the land, leaving them financially vulnerable. From its beginnings in 1992 as a savings self-help group, Bukonzo Joint has been dedicated to improving this situation through encouraging the equal participation of women.

Now the Bukonzo Joint Co-operative Union (BJCU) has 5,200 farmer members — and 85 per cent of them are women, including 55 per cent of its board. The co-op applies Gender Action Learning Systems’ (GALS) across all of its group activities, from farmer workshops to board meetings, to enhance the participation of women within the coffee value chain. Bukonzo Joint also uses the methodology to promote youth leadership and to assist other co-operatives in replicating the approach.

Salt Spring Coffee is proud, as part of our Fair to Farmer program, to buy beans from coffee origin pioneers such as Bukonzo Joint, farmers who are making a difference in their communities and leading the way when it comes to gender inclusiveness. Our CEO Mickey McLeod visited Uganda and the BJCU facilities in the spring of 2015, and Salt Spring Coffee is now going beyond simply buying coffee from the co-op and its partners at Twin Trading.

Through our 1% for the Planet donation program, and in collaboration with other partners in the coffee community, we helped the co-op develop a cupping lab that will connect farmers and their methods to high-quality — and great tasting — coffee. BJCU members grow organic coffee and are constantly improving and innovating through a farmer field school programme, where small groups of farmers learn from each other and share best practices on sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation.

The cupping lab adds to Bukonzo Joint’s convincing business case for prioritising gender inclusiveness with the high-quality beans they produce that earn acclaim throughout the coffee world. BJCU beans have regularly achieved exceptional scores — over 85 — from the Specialty Coffee Association of America. In 2015, Bukonzo Joint received the SCAA’s Sustainability Award for its pioneering approach to gender justice.

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