By John Wanyu
The Slow Food coffee growers from Uganda are working hard to protect the diversity and quality of their products. To achieve their goals, they participate in a campaign regarding the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) model that is currently in progress with the seven first working groups.
Since the beginning of April 2022, these groups have been taking part in a series of training sessions with a team of instructors from Slow Food Uganda, plus the collaboration of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition.
What is the PGS initiative?
It is an alternative certification that relies upon the relationship of people already close to production places, avoiding the inclusion of paid external stakeholders that small-scale producers could not afford, plus other bureaucratic difficulties.
The training in each community brought together 313 farmers, of which 48% were women, all of them very enthusiastic about being part of the ethical committees of the PGS.
Elias Ssali, a 50-year-old coffee farmer from Kanoni Robusta Coffee Farmers Association, said that he had never seen a system of this kind. The ethical committees are groundbreaking and will be a driving force towards quality as the only force to lead us to the change we want.
From the East, Soyi Steven, the chairperson of Busyula Arabic Coffee from the Bukusu Yetana Farmers Association, said that it was a matter of small-scale farmers in Africa believing in themselves and their potential. ‘’We met all our expectations. Knowledge of the entire value chain of quality coffee has been shared, and now it is time for us to take ownership and control of our plantations’’.
On the other side, the Mt. Elgon Nyasaland Coffee growers of the Miale Tubana farmers Association have already tested the market expectation for a fair price for Good, Clean, and Fair Coffee ordered by Sortengold. After signing their pledge and the Slow Food Coffee Coalition (SFCC) Manifesto, they are looking for specialized training focusing on climate change mitigation and adaptation, also financial literacy.
“The SFCC and the PGS arrived at the right time when we badly needed them. We are lucky to be improving our livelihood even at this old age’’ Said Betuubiza Abdu, treasurer of Kanoni Robusta Coffee Farmers Association.
Farmers from Mabindo noted some companies that cunningly try to convince them to procure pesticides, herbicides, and hybrid coffee seedlings, which have resulted in a depletion of biodiversity, low life expectancy, increased stress, food insecurity, and loss of knowledge in Agroecology.
Besides, they face the effects of climate change, leading to outbreaks of new diseases like the “Kiwere” where the coffee cherry turns from green straight to black without ripening. Also, women’s empowerment in the coffee sector is much of a requirement as women are still left behind.
The good news is that everyone with good intentions is welcome into the Coffee Coalition and the ethical committees give equal chances for leadership to all members. Thanks to the PGS, producers will be visiting each other to share knowledge, improve friendships and collaborate on bulking and collective marketing.