The now global NKG Bloom initiative was initially inspired by an effort in Uganda, aimed at creating holistic sustainability in the coffee supply chain. After four years of development, we're delighted to share that NKG Bloom Uganda has produced an Arabica offering, Uganda NKG Bloom Silverback.
Uganda is one of the few places in the world that's home to indigenous coffee, with Robusta growing wild in the lowlands surrounding Lake Victoria. In the early 1900s, Arabica was introduced from Ethiopia, and it still thrives in high altitudes along the slopes of Mt. Elgon. Regardless of variety, coffee in Uganda is cultivated by smallholder farmers with historically low yields. After years of working closely with producers, the NKG Bloom team identified the main challenges and created custom services packages to help mitigate them.These include financing, agronomy and business training, information technology access and market access.
Farmers enrolled in NKG Bloom have access to seasonal-based and long-term financing in the form of fertilizer and cash. Additionally, loans use coffee supplies as collateral, making it easier for farmers without other assets to gain access. Moreover, the option of mobile microfinancing enables farmers to pay for school fees and any other urgent cash needs with a small loan. This service not only helps producers avoid predatory lenders but it keeps coffee on the tree until it is mature, fetching the producer a higher end price.
The NKG Bloom Farmer Services Unit maintains a full-time presence, offering trainings based on the Farmer Field School model. These include technical assistance based in good agricultural practices as well as financial literacy training. NKG Bloom also offers a gender-specific training program to address the issue of gender inequality in the community. As is true in many coffee producing countries, women are significant contributors at a variety of levels of the coffee value chain but are rarely recognized or properly compensated for their work.
Another important component is building information technology systems. Through an IT-enabling environment, farmers can track their productivity as well as loan performance. With this data in hand, farmers can demonstrate their payback capacity and credit behavior, to obtain financing from more traditional institutions.
NKG Bloom has instituted a regional buying center in an effort to bring direct market services closer to farmers. In addition to eliminating middlemen and offering competitive pricing, the permanent station fosters mutual trust. This investment is demonstrative of the initiative’s long-term and dependable commitment to the community. Likewise, NKG exporter Ibero acknowledges producers’ own investment through paying quality premiums above market price. (Interestingly, much of the coffee grown in Uganda is smuggled out and sold through neighboring countries for higher prices.)
An external independent survey found that farmers enrolled in NKG Bloom have, on average, registered a 187 percent yield increase and a net coffee income increase of 189 percent. Aside from the immediate impact this revenue has on their standard of living, this increased income means that NKG Bloom farmers are more resilient. Not only are they able to absorb some degree of risk, but they can also afford to invest in their farms, their homes and their families.
The work in Uganda continues. In fact, NKG Bloom has a goal of reaching another 1,000 farmers by the end of 2024. By providing farmers with access to the resources they need to run their farms at full potential, we have seen the cultivation of coffee in Uganda become a viable and therefore sustainable investment for producers, ensuring the future of coffee for all of us. •