Kaweri Coffee Plantation is the only large-scale coffee farm in Uganda, located about 200 km west of the capital, Kampala. The landscape consists of picturesque rolling hills, flanked by two large papyrus swamps, which are typical for this region. There are also several tributaries emerging on the farm that are surrounded by a unique, untouched highland rainforest. The area is home to many genuine wild Robusta trees that are well over 100 years old. Kaweri is, thus, the home of Robusta coffee and today the plantation cultivates direct descendants of these wild trees. Cultivating Robusta as a native crop, in harmony with the highland rainforest, is a distinguishing feature and is one of the reasons for the exceptional quality of this coffee.
Mr. Henry Ngabirano is the Managing Director of the Ugandan Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).
“Kaweri is the first large-scale Robusta plantation in Uganda and is also the first farm that has introduced the Robusta washing process in big volumes, giving the coffee a particularly good quality. We are excited to learn that there are gourmet roast coffee products in Europe, which are purely made of Kaweri coffee, which is excellent news for Ugandan coffee all together. Kaweri is a model coffee farm with regards to the quality of coffee, the environmental achievements and the great support it is giving to the neighbor communities.”
In 2001, Neumann Kaffee Gruppe decided to invest in a coffee farm in Uganda, with the objective to produce a unique, washed specialty Robusta coffee. Pioneering sustainable coffee farm management, embedded in the local environment, is contributing not only to a positive economic impact in the entire region, but also leads to social and ecological advantages.
The Ugandan government at central and regional level, welcomed and supported the project from the beginning and after passing a range of formalities, including an environmental and social impact study, the first cultivation started by the end of 2001.
Kaweri is located on block 99, measuring 2512 ha, which was privately owned and first time measured and established in 1915. The land’s border was measured by three independent fully licensed surveyors and all of them confirmed the correctness of today’s borders in line with the registered land deed. Since 2001 the land is owned by the Ugandan Government and leased to Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd.
People who occupied part of the land prior to the start of the lease, obtained compensation from the previous owners, in line with the land act of Uganda. Written proof of each compensation was given and Kaweri received the land free of encumbrances.
Through an extensive development process, Kaweri developed modern cultivation and processing systems – thereby, establishing a complex agronomic concept as well as an efficient management and working structure, consisting of 99% of Ugandan citizens. Other management members originate from Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Hans Faessler is an agronomist with decades of experience in coffee cultivation in East Africa, Asia, Central and South America.
“From day 1 we made sure that each step was done with due respect to people and their culture as well as utmost care taken of the environment. We are proud to demonstrate that commercial coffee cultivation and environmental preservation can work in total harmony and in addition contribute substantially to the sustainable development of local communities. As such Kaweri is a seminal model farm.”
Today Kaweri cultivates 1570 ha of selected Ugandan coffee clones under mainly indigenous mixed shade plus about 100 ha of woodlots, made of various tree species.
While this is equally true worldwide, in the more remote areas of Africa the constant and unhindered access to this essential element is much less implicit. And while fortunately all people living and working on Kaweri have access to good, clean water, some still have to walk some distances to get it. No small wonder than, that inhabitants of the village of Kyota were absolutely thrilled, when Kaweri Coffee Plantation as their next door neighbour had announced some while ago to donate the drilling of a new borehole there.
So, in early October local residents, political leaders and Kaweri management jointly inaugurated the new water supply point. Until that date, Kyota residents - between six and eight hundred people all in all - had to take their water from a mostly polluted surface borehole. Many were suffering from water-borne diseases.
Now, with the drastically new and improved situation, various members of the local administration praised and thanked Kaweri for their effort and pledged continued cooperation. Especially Kaweri's continued contribution towards the surrounding communities was mentioned and stressed by all speakers.
From the beginning, Kaweri implemented the project with a clear social and environmental sustainability agenda and the farm is certified according to UTZ standards since 2011.
The social agenda implies full accordance with the Ugandan employment laws, transparent payment structures, workplace safety, health checks, gender equality, peace and respect among all employees. The farm fosters excellent relations with neighboring communities as well as the local and central government through constant dialogue and scheduled meetings.
The environmental agenda is built on a plan that was established before the start of the project. Thereby coffee cultivation was not replacing the existing ecosystem, but rather fields were integrated into nature by taking maximum care of biodiversity. Nearly 600 ha of forest remain untouched and coffee is grown under mixed shade. Due to the strict protection of forests and bio-corridors, the farm maintains the entire original biodiversity. Moreover a large immigration of partly endangered animals from surrounding, deforested areas is observed, making Kaweri an enormously valuable sanctuary for plants, rare birds, butterflies, reptiles and mammals.
The farm employs a fully qualified sustainability officer, who is responsible for maintenance and record keeping of the sustainability activities.
Szabolcs Sáfián is a PhD candidate in forest ecology, conservationist and Lepidoptera expert. He has done extensive research on butterflies in Africa, such as in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Madagascar. He helped setting up the Butterfly Conservation Society of Ghana (BCGHANA), the first of its kind in West Africa and was involved in various conservation programs, such as:
“I found the design of the Kaweri plantation in excellent harmony with the green corridors and other natural habitats (swamp, forest and savannah), which are very important in protecting the biodiversity in an area, where natural habitats have been largely destroyed by human activity.”
Szabolcs Sáfián, together with Peter Ward and Mike Barnett, identified well over 250 butterfly species on Kaweri, among them were many interesting records, such as the easternmost known occurrence of the sub-montane swallowtail Papilio charopus montuosus. He will continue his research and expects to find over 400 species in total.
“The high number of species identified on a relatively small area like Kaweri, is exceptional for agricultural areas and many of these species only survive because the forest belts are well protected. These forest belts between coffee compartments serve as a very important network of corridors to link natural habitat patches within the plantation.”
The farm has created nearly 200 permanent jobs, including farm-, section- and divisional managers, accountants, group leaders, clerks, drivers and cooks among other. Most of the permanent employees have started with basic knowledge, but through constant training they have developed into skilled professionals in their field of work. The majority of the permanent employees have been with the company for many years, which expresses satisfaction with working and living conditions at Kaweri.
In addition to the permanent employees, the farm provides between 4 – 800 regular daily jobs, primarily in the form of piece or task work in the coffee fields, such as weeding, pruning etc. In this system, the employee is required to fulfill a certain amount of work and is free to work at his/her desired speed. Some employees manage to accomplish more than one or even several tasks per day.
During picking seasons, additional 500 – 3,500 pickers come to the farm, the numbers depend on the size of the crop. Picking is piece work and payment is based on picked kilos of cherry.
Simon Sakwa was born in Mbale District, Eastern Uganda and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry of Makerere University and was employed by Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd. in 2002 as a Coffee Nursery Manager.
“Kaweri has a good culture of Internal Promotions, my hard work has been rewarded through promotions over the years and to date am the Human Resource and Administration Manager. We have developed team spirit at all levels of management; free interaction of people from different social, ethnic, religious, political and economic backgrounds which makes Kaweri a conductive working environment. We work closely with community leaders from the village level, to the district, up to the central government and this has resulted in good relationship with the neighboring community, who is proud of Kaweri for the support that is given in form of stable employment, clean water, support to schools and churches. I personally attend church at Kyengeza Community Church, where half of the roof was donated by Kaweri.”
“For the past 13 years I have worked for Kaweri, it has made me feel proud to be part of this Multinational Company, which has enabled me to develop my carrier in Plantation Agriculture through in-house training and also to do personal development, and there is a lot to learn.”
Kaweri lies at the equator about 200 km west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. The farm can be reached by car within three hours from the airport of Entebbe. The road from Kampala/Entebbe to Mubende is excellent and passes through typical Ugandan countryside. Roughly 12 km before reaching Mubende town, a white signboard indicates the turnoff to the southern entrance of the farm, which is another 8 km over natural road. Alternatively, one can pass through Mubende town and from there to the northern entrance of Kaweri. This drive takes roughly 45 minutes more time.