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September 24th, 2019 / Stanford Social Innovation Review

In the Ugandan coffee sector, smallholder farmers are starting to get a better deal. There, since 2003, a network of coffee cooperatives called the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) has been empowering smallholders to maintain ownership over the coffee they grow all the way through the value chain, from harvest to roasting. Two-hundred farmer co-ops with 1.5 million individual members pay NUCAFE a fee to market their beans, and cooperative members can grade and roast their beans at the organization’s facilities.

Now that buyers—rather than middlemen—pay cooperatives for the coffee beans, farmers are reaping the rewards of their work. Members of NUCAFE have increased their coffee incomes by an average of 250 percent, according to a 2018 study by Santa Clara University.

NUCAFE’s story is unusual and tantalizing. What could this example and others like it tell us about how to make the big steps forward that smallholder farmers need? Read more …