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Great Lakes Coffee Brings Farmer Profitability Trials to Life in Uganda: Part 3

Dec. 20, 2018

Through our Global Coffee Monitoring Program, WCR is conducting trials around the world—including in Uganda—to help coffee farmers find a path to profitability.

In the final part of this 3-part series, we look at how knowledge acquired from the Global Coffee Monitoring Program is shared, and how prospective partners can get involved in the trials. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, check them out.

Neighbors driving past the neat rows of baby coffee trees on Raphel Baluku’s farm in Western Uganda, are taking notice and asking questions. The trees are part of a field trial that connects Mr. Baluku to an unprecedented global effort to improve profitability for coffee farmers.

Soon enough both Mr. Baluku and his neighbors will have a chance to see what knowledge is gleaned from the trials and how they can apply it to their own farms. One of the most important commitments that farmer-participants make when they join the Global Coffee Monitoring Program (GCMP) is hosting Farmer Field Days to bring together fellow farmers to learn from the trials.

Maureen and Baluku

Raphel Baluku and Maureen Namugalu (WCR Agronomist) pose in front of the farm sign for Mr. Baluku's plot.

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A neatly laid out Global Coffee Monitoring Program plot from Rwanda, planted in March.

Step 8: Sharing knowledge through farmer field days

Research isn’t especially valuable if it isn’t shared. An essential part of the GCMP is ensuring that data acquired from each trial is shared with participating farmers and partners inside and outside of the trial. Farmer field days are organized in years 2-5 of each trial to share access to the knowledge being generated. For Mr. Baluku, the first of these trainings will happen in 2019.

Using data from the farmers’ own field, key information such as weather data, plant growth, yield, and the costs of production versus income is shared and discussed.  At these events, farmers have the chance to examine which combination of variety and agronomy practices provides the most benefit.  All of this information will help farmers locally make more informed decisions about approaches to take in their farms.  Mr. Baluku says he is already looking forward to these events. “This will be a way of extending knowledge to other farmers who would wish to host these trials but were not able to,” he says.

Step 9:  Using findings to support coffee supply

The data from a single site are powerful enough for the farmer, his neighbor, and the supply chain partners involved in purchasing coffee from the region. But aggregate that impact over the network’s hundreds of trials in more than 30 countries and you have something totally unprecedented in the coffee sector. 

Partners in the trial, like Great Lakes have access to data from the sites they support, which is among the biggest benefits of being a GCMP partner. Partners receive brief, annual OFTT reports starting in year two, prepared by WCR for each OFTT site in their supply chain.  These reports contain information on variety performance and factors influencing production, including soil characteristics, annual weather data, vegetative growth, disease prevalence, and bean and cup quality. In total, this provides partners with a wealth of information they can use to invest in and strengthen their supply chains.

A path to profitability

With the help of key partners, diligent agronomists, and dedicated farmers, the GCMP is helping to transform coffee farms into climate-smart, productive, and profitable enterprises—in Uganda and in other coffee-producing countries around the world. Though Mr. Raphael Baluku is still in the first year of the trial, he says he already sees clear evidence that he is becoming a more skilled, and likely more profitable, farmer. “I am already seeing an improved future of coffee—I have new varieties at my farm and have learned other management practices,” Mr. Baluku says. “I have learned a lot from the WCR agronomist and Great Lakes staff. Doing all this hands-on work at my farm makes me feel confident that my coffee will be better in the future.”

Great Lakes Coffee Agribusiness Manager Koen Sneyers, who was instrumental in bringing the partnership with WCR to fruition, said of the effort, “We feel responsible to help the coffee farmers we work with, and getting them out of poverty is the final objective. This program helps all of us build knowledge and think more clearly.”

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Maureen Namugalu (WCR Agronomist) helping plant the OFTT's earlier this autumn.

Partnering on the program 

Great Lakes Uganda has been a key partner in bringing the Global Coffee Monitoring Program trials to life in Uganda, at Mr. Baluku’s farm and beyond. These trials are playing an important role in exposing farmers to new technologies and helping them understand how they can follow a path to profitability and long-term sustainability.

WCR continues to work with multiple partners—including roasting companies, exporters, cooperatives, host country coffee institutions, and coffee farmers—to extend the GCMP network across the coffee production globe, as we install hundreds of trial plots in nearly three dozen coffee-producing countries.

WCR aims to have five to six different supply chain partners in each country where the trials operate. Partners which have agronomy staff on the ground agree to sponsor a minimum of five technology trials, with cash and in-kind contributions to cover the trial’s activities and costs in collaboration with WCR.

Interested in finding out more information about partnering on trials? Email WCR Partnership Director Greg Meenahan at greg@worldcoffeeresearch.org.


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