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Founded in 1998
Comprised of more than 6,000 farmers
Women account for half of the membership
FLO certified (Fair Trade certified) since 2003
Farmers begin transition into organics upon becoming members
Located on and around Mount Elgon, a large volcanic mountain that spans several kilometers along the border of Uganda and Kenya, the farmers of Gumutindo produce high quality arabica coffee at altitudes that stretch beyond 2,000 meters above sea level. The cooperative is a farmer-owned business that is made up of ten different "primary societies" (a type of sub-coop) that represent more than 6,000 farmers (2008).
After losing its foothold in the international coffee scene in the early 1990s, it became very difficult for Ugandan farmers to find markets in which to sell high quality coffee. The dismantling of the country's coffee industry created a hostile environment among foreign importers -- Uganda was considered a high volume, lower grade source. In 1998, a handful of farmers joined a collective effort to reestablish Uganda's commitment to quality coffee as well as to the cooperative-based structure. By 1999, 200 farmers gathered together to pursue a direct partnership with TWIN, a U.K.-based importer devoted to Fair Trade principles and social development of small-scale farmers all over the world.
Like most coops, Gumutindo had modest beginnings: all operations were run by one person (the current manager Willington Wamayeye) out of a small rented office space. Since then, they've grown significantly, constructing their own offices, warehouse, and sorting room. They've also developed a professional staff team of agronomists, technicians and cuppers.
In the 10+ years that Gumutindo has been serving the region of Mount Elgon, it has managed to revitalize its primary societies, vastly increased the quality of its coffee, instilled organic values and practices among its farmer members, and incorporated the voice of women in both its organizational and agricultural development. Appealing to the demands of specialty coffee markets, the coop analyzes and sorts all of its collected coffee according to quality, allowing importers to discern and select which coffees would best suit their market. Fair Trade has allowed the primary societies to build stores, offices, and a medical clinic for the village's inhabitants. They hope to continue their growth through transparent and mutually beneficial trade partnerships: "We seek to develop long term relationships based on mutual commitment and loyalty, with buyers who are ready to work with us as our farmer membership, coffee quality and volumes increase."
A strong ally of our coop, Cooperative Coffees, Twin Trading Ltd. introduced Gumutindo to us in 2008 and we imported our first Ugandan lots in 2009. Several of our members had the opportunity to meet Mr. Wamayeye during the SCAA in April 2009 and Coop Coffees celebration in Americus, GA thereafter.
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