With its tropical climate and lush vegetation, Uganda offers the perfect environment for growing coffee beans; it is therefore not surprising that coffee production is one of the country’s major sources of income. Not only is Uganda the largest producer of Robusta coffee in Africa, it also produces excellent – even award-winning – Arabica.
The coffee factory
Simon Lévelt has been buying coffee from Kawacom for years; we have always had a very good working relationship, so when Kawacom wanted to obtain UTZ certification back in 2002, we were happy to provide assistance.
The organic Arabica coffee we buy from Kawacom is grown by small coffee farmers in the Bugisu region of eastern Uganda. Previously, each farmer used to process their own coffee beans, which led to inconsistent quality. In order to improve the overall quality of the coffee beans, Kawacom and Simon Lévelt decided in 2008 to jointly invest in central coffee processing facilities. In addition they started providing training for the coffee farmers on how to correctly pick the beans, among other things.
The coffee farmers
The coffee farmers that are associated with the coffee facilities can sell their harvest, or a part of it, to the processing facilities. The farmers that are based nearby transport their coffee to the processing facilities either on foot, with a (rented) donkey or on a moped. For the more distant villages there is a small truck that will pick up the beans on fixed days. The coffee beans are weighed, inspected and paid for at various pick-up points.
The coffee berries have to be processed within 8 hours of picking. First, they are sorted in water; unripe berries, twigs and leaves float up and are removed. The ripe berries, which sink to the bottom, go to the pulper to remove the outer skin and the pulp. The skin and pulp are collected and composted. The remaining coffee beans, with parchment, are carried on by the water to one of the soaking tanks, where they remain for 8 to 10 hours. In these tanks, the slimy mucilage layer is removed by fermentation. After this process the coffee beans are ready to be dried.
The beans are left to dry on patios in the sun first, followed by 30-48 hours in the dryer. Kawacom’s two dryers are heated with the parchment from coffee beans from the factory in Kampala. The dried coffee beans are manually sorted one last time to make sure there are no residual pieces of skin and damaged beans.
The water for processing the coffee beans is filtered using volcanic rock. Afterwards it flows to a basin with papyrus sedge, which reduces the acidity of the water. Once the water has the correct acidity it is drained off into the nearby river.
This project, a cooperation between Simon Lévelt and Kawacom, has led to a better price for the farmers, environmentally friendly processing and delicious coffee.