Robusta coffee has traditionally been grown in the central region of Uganda around the Lake Victoria basin, but rudimentary, unsustainable production methods were depleting soil fertility and producing poor-quality coffee with little value on the international market. The Katuka Development Trust Ltd (KTDL), a cooperatively owned company limited by guarantee, is working to improve farmers’ livelihoods by producing certified organic and fair-trade products, as well as reversing environmental damage through sustainable agricultural practices.

KTDL was founded in 2004 and evolved out of the Katuka programme, promoted by Caritas Kampala, which was aimed at developing agriculture through farmer institutions. It currently employs three full-time staff (a business manager, a stores and quality supervisor and an accountant) and has more than 20 volunteers. It is owned by 654 farmers, and all decisions must be ratified by the General Assembly, making it transparent and accountable.

Out of the 654 registered farmers, 306 are already certified organic and the rest are at different levels of conversion. Organic training is run by volunteer extension officers and the internal inspector and helps farmers with issues like managing an overgrown coffee plantation, pruning, composite manure application, intercropping coffee with other crops, water conservation, compost-making to improve soil structure and fertility and the importance of livestock in organic production.

The whole organization has been certified Fair Trade by FLO-CERT, an independent international certification agency, since June 2011. As well as guaranteeing a fair price to producers, the fair-trade social premium funds will go into social and community development, for example equipping labour wards with beds and creating clean water sources, according to Heinrich Mukalazi, the cooperative’s business manager.

Development is at the heart of KTDL’s activities, and the company runs many workshops and training sessions for staff and farmers, sensitizing them about their rights to development opportunities, clean water, shelter, justice, quality education and quality health care.

KTDL is currently collaborating with Elgonia One Café International Ltd on coffee packaging solutions for international markets, but ultimately the cooperative would like to reduce the product value chain so that KTDL is involved in the whole process from farm to final producer.

KTDL is working on developing its image, and hired a graphic designer to create a logo. The final choice reflects the cooperative’s focus not just on marketing quality coffee, but also making sure it is produced sustainably and that farmers receive social and economic benefits. Says Mukalazi: “The preferred logo focused on the coffee bean – the main crop for sale by KDTL – and the hand, this being a symbol of the craft and work of farmers, that they produce and give the fruit of their work to the buyer and consumer. The focus is not only on the product but also on the effort behind it.”