Gerald Mbabazi – Producer Q and A

Briefly, please explain your family history, your involvement in coffee, and your involvement in your local community?

My name is Gerald Mbabazi, I am born and raised in Kanungu district, south western,Uganda. My parents have always been active members in our community. They strongly believe in Education, access to healthcare, clean water and financial capability.

After starting 5 schools in our district, they realized they can take coffee growing more seriously and use the proceeds to help sustain the schools and subsidize health care and clean water projects in the area. My father started selling coffee back in the Idi Amin days(1975) when Uganda had no functioning economy. He partnered up with local farmers to sell coffee to large scale buyers in neighboring Zaire-currently DR.Congo. They would carry it on their heads through forests and over mountains avoiding road packed with blood hungry soldiers of a dictator who would steal the coffee or the money after your transaction.

I am now working with 10,000 small holder farmers through a coop, KIYEDECO coffee project to improve quality, sustainability, value addition, cooperation, information availability and global market partnerships.

We currently have 10acres of coffee at Greatlakes High school which is used as a demonstration farm to the high school students who live at the school 9months out of the year. We encourage first year students to plant coffee during their holidays and many of them go back home to plant their own coffee trees. By year four of high school, some are able to pay their way through high school and then university. We have roasted and sold this coffee in Uganda safari lodges and some supermarkets to help pay teachers, subsidize student health care and build community water projects.
We just acquired a new coffee wet processing equipment which will help improve handling and production of specialty grade coffee beans with April 2013 harvest.

Prior to doing business directly with roasters, how have you sold your coffee? How is doing business direct with roasters affecting your business, family and community?

Prior to doing direct business with roasters, we were suffocating with middlemen. The Ugandan market is extremely cut throat and 90% of the middlemen careless about quality and more about the weight. More so, prices to farmers were not encouraging any one to take coffee farming seriously.

After meeting roasters in California, we find that what determines our price is the quality of beans that we produce. This has helped us pay closer attention to every process. For example, we are working closely with Temple artisan roasters in Sacramento,CA and they have taught us many good processing techniques that they see in other coffee producing countries that we have never visited. They have connected us with large scale importers so that we can enjoy economies of scale. They have helped us forecast the future demand trends around the world. We are situated in the middle of no where and would never have access to such valuable information.

This has helped us forecast our possible earnings and we are able to advise the farmers on how much money they could make each season. As a matter of fact, its our goal that all our farmers have an insecticide treated mosquito net for every member of their household this season (2013). Our close partnership with roasters will help make this possible as we will make enough money to to subsidize bed nets for low producing farmers thirty trees and below. Half of these bed nets will be made by a local women’s weaving cooperative. This will provide jobs and increase income in the community and most of all empower dignity for the hardworking and earning people involved.

Temple coffee prefers to use trusted exporters and importers to handle logistics, and provide insight on expectations between our producers and ourselves. There are advantages and disadvantages to using exporters and importers. Which do you believe works better and why. Can you think of ways the supply chain can be improved?

I think containers and all shipments need to be tracked and more information shared with both the farmers and buyer. Its of great importance to the farmers when they know that their produce is now being enjoyed by people overseas.

Temple pays above organic or fair-trade premium for our coffees, how has this affected you and your community? 

This will help rid malaria from the homes of our coop members and increase productivity and income when people are healthy.

Temple attempts to keep dialogue open with all our producers and share marketing information (coffeereview scores, customer feedback, etc). Do many of your direct relationships also do this? Is it helpful for you and does it affect your business? Is it unique to Temple? 

Not yet.

How do direct relationships affect your coffee quality? What information do you find most useful? 

How our coffee compares to the rest of the world is always invaluable information that we receive from Temple. This in turn spurs us to work harder and pay more attention to the farmers.

I have to tell you and ask, Temple will be applying for Micro-Roaster of the Year 2013. If Temple wins, how will this affect you?

This will be great news to the farmers knowing that the roaster who flew 10,000miles to visit them is working with a global formidable company. Knowing they are contributing will first and foremost increase dignity. We are part of something great!
We will not stop working hard to produce the best coffee in East Africa.

Temple is committed to spreading our local community to our producers. The purpose of this Q and A is to provide you with a dialogue with our wholesale and retail customers as well as our staff. Is there anything you would like to say to them?

We look forward to working with you very soon 🙂

Is there anything you would like to add or anyway you can think of that we can do to make your relationship with Temple Coffee better?

Thank you, as always, we will look forward to working with you in the future!