Empowering Smallholder Coffee Farmers
The National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) has provided Ugandan coffee farmers opportunities to profitably own their coffee along the value chain since its founding in 2003. The social enterprise has worked with over 213 farmer cooperatives — made up of over 1.5 million individual farmers — to support them with training, control of processing, marketing, and access to global markets. “The farmer ownership model means that farmers take ownership and shape their own destiny. We must confront the inhumane conditions in the global coffee value chain to save current and future generations,” stated Executive Director Joseph Nkandu. Through NUCAFE’s support and invaluable services to its local communities, coffee farmers improve their lives and take ownership of their products from beginning to end. Miller Center is honored to have accompanied the organization since its participation in our 2016 accelerator program.
Growing Coffee and Community
NUCAFE’s sustainable business practices give back to the coffee farmers that participate in the collective and their local communities. Investing in the sustainability of solar energy, NUCAFE has recently eliminated 100% emissions by installing solar panels at their facilities, simultaneously reducing electricity and processing costs. The solar panel installations led to the first Ugandan Carbon Neutral Coffees and provided the community around it with the excess solar energy produced. NUCAFE has hosted Miller Center Fellows to develop training programs and consulting services that reflect Joseph’s constant dialogue with his client base and workers.
Now for over 20 years, we have been on the forefront, both here in Uganda and beyond, to ensure that the perpetuated poverty and inequality that smallholder coffee farmers experience are dealt with. To do this, I had to come up with the farmer ownership model.
– Joseph Nkandu
Miller Center and NUCAFE
Hit hard by the pandemic’s crippling effects on the global economy, NUCAFE worked with Miller Center in our Crisis Business Planning Program to ensure a stable business model to help secure financial stability. NUCAFE’s model and commitment to sustainability made it competitive in its loan search, receiving an emergency bridge loan from the Truss Fund, which helped catalyze a match by KIVA. The Truss Fund, developed by Beneficial Returns and Miller Center, enabled NUCAFE to prepare for the international demand from the reopening of coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants: facilitating the bulking, processing, and export of coffee from its network of farmers. “We wanted to keep ourselves around and available and to keep the farmers’ hopes alive. That played an important role in getting through the pandemic,” stated Joseph.
NUCAFE’s adaptability during the pandemic — embracing e-business, utilizing phone conferencing, converting offices into temporary living spaces for workers to reduce chances of infection, taking on the delivery process to ease the strain on farmers, and competitively seeking loans — has increased the social enterprise’s customer satisfaction and engagement, and further secured the livelihoods of millions. Joseph added, “Since participating in the Miller Center program, we’ve been able to make tremendous progress, helping to improve farmers’ incomes by at least 250%.”