How 25-year-old Nalugemwa adds value to organic coffee

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By Frank Lukwago, New Vision/NECJOGHA

Mpigi, Uganda – Coffee is Uganda’s leading export commodity, ranking the country as Africa’s biggest exporter and second producer.

At least 1.7 million households (10.7million people) in Uganda depend on coffee. Of these, 60 per cent are women. But the irony is women along the supply chain are paid “peanuts.” Yet if more women are involved in processing and trading of these precious cherries, this country would be economically empowered

Some women who have tasted the unfair treatment are devising innovative ways to change this narrative.

Such is 25-year old Elizabeth Nalugemwa who after going through hardships of growing coffee but earning almost nothing, innovated processed coffee brand dubbed: ‘Kyaffe Farmer’s Coffee (meaning our farmer’s coffee).

Motivation
Relating this with her personal story, Nalugemwa was raised by a mother whose income to support the family came from coffee growing.

Primarily, she wanted to economically empower women like her mother through fair-trade coffee farming while making her a boss.

“I grew up with a single mother of six children. Our mother would grow coffee; sell it to middlemen. Basically she had no authority on how much she was getting from her sweat,” Nalugemwa recalls.

So, after studying up to Diploma level in Business Administration, at Nsamizi Training Institute of Social Development in Mpigi District, the young lady faced up with the hustle of combing the streets for employment.

To widen her job search, Nalugemwa moved from Masaka to Kampala, an experience that opened her eyes to start.

While in Kampala, Nalugemwa through associating with people and visiting places for leisure and shopping, was attracted to drinking processed coffee. To her surprise, most of it was imported.

Elizabeth Nalugemwa, the founder of Kyaffe Coffee Farmers, talks about how they eliminate middle men and promote fair prices among women small holder farmers. COURTESY PHOTO

“I was seeing different coffee brands in supermarkets where attendants would woo you to buy their coffee. But I did not know how they did it,” she explains.

Start
So, she told her mother that there were tonnbes of roasted coffee in Kampala costing a pretty sum of money but she didn’t know how it was done.

She narrates: “I would see a half kilogramme of coffee priced at Shs18,000, Shs20,000 yet at home, a kilogramme cost Shs2,000.”

Nalugemwa through several inquiries, got the details of how coffee was being roasted and eventually packaged.

“I didn’t have money, or the green beans to execute my new discovery. So my sister lent me Shs120,000,” she says.

Her mother then used the capital to procure for her the coffee beans, loaded it on a truck and sent it to Nalugemwa in Kampala.

She started roasting the beans using a saucepan on a charcoal stove. That is how her innovative journey to coffee processing began.

She says: “I did the roasting of the coffee beans on a charcoal stove for three months. At the time, I had many friends most of whom were foreigners who provided the market.”

As fate would have it, one of these friends became a regular customer. She was inspired by the fact that the youthful Nalugemwa had started something locally made.

Because Nalugemwa’s coffee was being roasted in what was described as an “artisanal way,” the roasted coffee was not up to standard.

“It is this friend who connected me to CURAD (Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Limited) who incubate and support agribusiness startups,” she narrates.

Marketplace
Curad helped Nalugemwa to process her coffee and packaged it well with each kilogramme costing Shs5,500.

With Curad, she started with roasting 10Kg of coffee monthly in 2017. This has since grown to 300 Kg – an equivalent of about 600 packets, where each costs Shs25,000.

“The production and operational capital costs for half a kilogramme are at Shs15,000 because we move a long distance like around the equator to Curad,” she says.

From every packet, she makes a profit of Shs10,000.

This means in a good month, should all the coffee packets be bought, Nalugemwa smiles her way to the bank with close to Shs6m in turnover.

The products. From every packet, she makes a

The products. From every packet, she makes a profit of Shs10,000.

Clientele
Due to the poor coffee consumption culture in Uganda, her target customers are mainly the tourists who get her Kyaffe Farmer’s Coffee brand from craft shops.

To encourage the coffee drinking culture, Nalugemwa plans to launch a household coffee product this November, one that will provide competition for tea leaves costing Shs200.

Nalugemwa has bought three acres of land along Masaka Road on which she has set up the first office building.

Her business minds about fair-trade in which she supports 90 women who supply her with coffee beans.

The business has won awards such as the Seed Awards, Women Stop Huger, France, Paris, and Obama Foundation recognised her for doing great work for women among others.

Challenges
This has limited her from expanding her business and products to supermarkets. She has resorted to only craft shops because she packs it in bags made out of Kitenge fabric.

“As a startup, we face very many challenges to penetrate the market; they minimise us, they can look down at you because you don’t have a corporate organisation’s car,” she narrates.

She appeals to government to appreciate young people who startup products, organisations, companies.

She says: “If you have been running a company for one to two years, the government should allow you to operate for about six months without paying taxes.”

Who is she?

Nalugemwa is a social entrepreneur born on October 16 1994 in Masaka District. She grew up with a single mother who was a coffee farmer. The family relied on coffee sales for food, rent and medication. Unfortunately, they only received less than $1 per kilogramme of coffee sold.

Marketplace
Curad helped Nalugemwa to process her coffee and packaged it well with each kilogramme costing Shs5,500.

With Curad, she started with roasting 10Kg of coffee monthly in 2017. This has since grown to 300 Kg – an equivalent of about 600 packets, where each costs Shs25,000.

“The production and operational capital costs for half a kilogramme are at Shs15,000 because we move a long distance like around the equator to Curad,” she says.

From every packet, she makes a profit of Shs10,000.
This means in a good month, should all the coffee packets be bought, Nalugemwa smiles her way to the bank with close to Shs6m in turnover.

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