A brand is born
On a visit to Uganda in 2010, then as the National Coordinator of Fair Trade Wales, Elen (Co-founder of Jenipher’s Coffi) met Jenipher, and they’ve been in touch ever since. On that visit, in answering Elen’s question on how people in Wales can best support the coffee farmers on Mt Elgon, Jenipher told her that it was simple – “buy our coffee on Fairtrade terms”. In 2020, this became a reality and Jenipher’s Coffi was born.
Over ten years on from that initial conversation, and in the middle of a global pandemic, plans aligned. A collective of committed organisations and individuals in Wales and Uganda formed the Coffee and Climate Change Partnership to bring the brand to life.
In Uganda, the farmers who produce the coffee are part of the Mt Elgon Agroforestry Communities Co-operative Enterprise, or MEACCE in short. The transportation of coffee from Uganda to Wales is managed by Etico, The Ethical Trading Company, the coffee is roasted by Ferrari’s in south Wales, and the launch of the Jenipher’s Coffi brand was managed by Fair Do’s Siopa Teg CIC.
An uphill battle
Collecting coffee from the slopes of Mt Elgon is no easy task in the best of circumstances. Farmers grow coffee up to 2,400 meters above sea level on this volcanic mountain. Roads are often eroded and getting the coffee to the various sorting stations scattered across the slopes for processing is difficult at the best of times. Add in the lockdown measures implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it becomes a complex operation.
Producing quality coffee is a time-sensitive game. Coffee is temperamental and vulnerable. Every stage from growing to brewing can impact the intricate flavour of the coffee. Delays of any kind can interfere with the delicate, and complex flavour of the beans that farmers work so carefully to produce over months and years. These beans represent most of the farmers’ income for the year. Money that’s needed to support their children’s education and protect their family’s health.
Like many commodity crops grown across the world, farmers are at the mercy of volatile prices and unfair power imbalances. Added to this are the impacts of extreme weather patterns. Farmers such as those on the slopes of Mt Elgon are on the frontline of the climate crisis. Back in the summer of 2020, the farmers of MEACCE were therefore particularly keen to see the coffee safely packed and shipped after a couple of difficult years.
A new brand from old friendships
As the world’s first Fair Trade Nation, the people of Wales have long supported fairer terms of trade for smallholder farmers across the world. Thanks to the work of the Wales and Africa programme of the Welsh Government, there are many established connections between Wales and Uganda. Farmers, such as Jenipher, the vice-chair of the cooperative have been welcomed by businesses, schools and communities across Wales for years, helping to deepen our understanding of the issues they and their communities are facing.
Changes in weather patterns, coupled with local deforestation driven by poverty mean mudslides and flooding are becoming increasingly common, with devastating and often fatal impacts for communities on and around Mt Elgon. When buying Jenipher’s Coffi, you’re playing a small part in making the world a fairer place.
Our brand ensures that the coffee farmers receive a fair price for their coffee and supports capacity building to help farmers to work in a nature-friendly way and to take action to tackle the current climate crisis, with a particular focus on growing women and youth’s leadership skills.
Looking to the future
Jenipher’s Coffi is a new brand, and while we have a lot to learn, we have big plans. This means the journey ahead might get a little bumpy at times as we are committed to our values of fairness and respect, and do not want to compromise them. If you love coffee and want to make sure we protect the planet for future generations, we hope you will join us on our journey.