Members – 6000 farmers – made up of 10 primary societies
Location – Upland valleys of Mt. Elgon in Eastern Uganda
Elevation – 2,000 meters above sea level
Established – 1998
Varieties – arabica traditional east African varieties
Diversification – bananas, cassava, yams
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. Gumitundo stands for “excellent quality” in their native language and members of the cooperative work hard to provide the highest quality beans through the growing, harvesitng, processing, and exporting of coffee. 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. 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.
One unique aspect of Gumitundo is that women make up half the membership and play a strong role in the development of the cooperative. Gumutindo has always promoted women’s involvement at all levels of the organisation. According to Gumitundo, “We believe that when the woman controls some of the family income, the family will benefit in a number of ways, and the woman’ s status and capacity for independent action will improve. These desirable changes and measurable benefits will have positive effects within her family and her community. Because of this belief, we have begun to work with our women members on marketing their coffee separately from the bulk of Gumutindo coffee. We also encourage women to join.”
In 2003 Gumitundo registered as a new co-operative union, with the aim of making sustainable improvements to the livelihoods of their members by selling their fair trade and organic coffee in the most advantageous markets. The same year they obtained our own export license for the first time. In 2004 they were certified as a fair trade small producer organization under international fair trade standards. In 2005 they bought our own premises and began to operate as a genuinely independent farmer business.
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.”