By Lorenz Stöckert
In the fall of 2020, I started working with the Miale Tubana Mixed Farmers Collective from Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda. The new member of Slow Food‘s Coffee Coalition and established Slow Food Presidium is cultivating and preserving the endangered Nyasaland Arabica variety.
Initially, I had to purchase their lot through a third party in Kampala. After a full year of supply chain management, ending with a visit to the growers at the end of last year, the farmers and I are happy to finally announce receiving their first batch of green coffee traded directly to Europe. From May 2022, the Collective will offer their lot for the first time to European roasters and their consumers. It will be available as a spot purchase through sortengold.de as a distribution partner.
On the slopes of the eastern Ugandan volcano, Mount Elgon at an altitude of 1,200 to 1,550 meters, the 40 smallholders of the Collective live, farm, and cultivate the endangered Nyasaland variety. The almost extinct plants are descended from Typica plants from southwest Ethiopia, are between 1.5 and 2 meters in size, and produce somewhat smaller beans than other Arabica varieties.
The plants are much more resistant to diseases than commercial varieties therefore they do not need chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers at all. The Collective is processing the coffee washed and this year’s crop was described as clean, with lots of body, sweetness, a little acidity, and notes of cassis, panela, and black tea reaching scores between 84-85. The Collective is practicing a way of farming where the focus is on extensive practices such as intercropping, the use of organic fertilizers, and botanical repellents. In their gardens, the coffee is intercropped with local fruits, vegetables, tubers, and many kinds of wild plants. The variety of plants and large African shade trees nourish the soil structure and protect it from the strong sunlight.
After graduating with a degree in agriculture, I volunteered with Slow Food Uganda in 2020. While there, in eastern Uganda, I was able to meet the Miale Tubana Mixed Farmers, who are part of Slow Food Uganda. Because we believe in each other and I am convinced that coffee and the idea of Slow Food have what it takes to create an exchange between the global North and South and to promote environmentally and socially sustainable conditions, we began the partnership.
The Slow Food Coffee Coalition is a great approach to bringing key stakeholders together and putting farmers, the environment, and their culture in the spotlight, and giving them a space where they are appreciated for their work. Since working with Slow Food, I have been able to come into contact with many like-minded coffee farmers, roasters, and coffee drinkers.