Can Arabica coffee farmers in East Uganda earn a living income through the support of private sector investment?
Mountain Harvest is a privately owned company sourcing and exporting high-quality Arabica coffee out of Uganda. They are headquartered in Mbale, at the base of Mount Elgon – an extinct volcano that is providing the ideal conditions to cultivate much desired Arabica coffees. Mountain Harvest is working closely together with the local farming communities to rigorously improve the quality of its Arabicas in order to sell to international premium specialty coffee roasters. Key priorities for Mountain Harvest in guaranteeing these highest quality standards are 1) investing in local leadership and management, 2) implementing farm-level data collection software to feed company-level learning and decision-making processes 3) centralizing current on-farm processing activities where quality loss is most severe, and 4) training farmers on best processing practices and provision of affordable coffee processing equipment where centralization is not feasible or desirable.
IDH was interested in understanding to what extent the investment by Mountain Harvest would increase the incomes of the farming communities in the region. Would the higher prices paid by roasters be enough to get these families to earn a living income? If not, how can other drivers – such as coffee yields, intercropping income, or the size of the plot – be influenced to reach the level of income? What lies within the control of Mountain Harvest, and how can IDH or other value chain actors best support?
In 2022, additional analyses were added to the earlier SDM report as part of the Coffee Farmer Income Resilience Programme (CFIRP) with a specific focus on implementing a regenerative agriculture approach to achieve farmer income resilience. That study can be found here.