Thursday, June 17, 2010

Locals work for a better Uganda (Pt.2)

Continued from yesterday’s post.

Ugandan President Musevini sat down with Hornbeck, Rawlins and Clay in September 2008. Hornbeck calls Musevini “an economist by education who understands the farmer-owned concept as long as they have a market.” Janet Storton of Sisters was also at the meeting and presented President Musevini with a quilted fabric bag made by the Kapchorwan women she trained through her Sisters of the Heart project – another off-shoot of SCC’s broadening relationship with Kapchorwa.

Last month, Rawlins and Hornbeck put the finishing touches on what Hornbeck calls a “real economic partnership” and KaBuM International (Kapchorwa Bukwo Mild) was launched.

Future Wash. Station Prop. 

Future Washing Station Property


“This year we hope to begin construction of the first farmer-owned washing station,” says Rawlins. “We have a core group of best practices and top farmers in that region. The difference is we let them own the means of production so no middleman can exploit them.”

Farmers will pay off private loans for the infrastructure within five years, out of coffee sales. “Then the Ugandans will own title to the washing station,” adds Hornbeck.

That washing station could be ready in time for this fall’s harvest, and the beans available for sale locally as early as September.

KaBuM boasts a specialized computer system that tracks bean micro-lots by GPS co-ordinates, allowing consumers access to the cupping ratings and personal stories behind their brew.

Like the story of Janet Chemonges who was deserted by her husband years ago. One of a number of female coffee farmers, Chemonges expanded her farm, hired more pickers and received training in new practices with a micro-loan. She’s now the Ugandan representative to Women In Coffee International as well as the mother of two university graduates and two more children who attend Testimony School. She recently rode on an airplane for the first time.


Hornbeck and Rawlins are having no trouble connecting farmers with new buyers who attach value to these personal stories, and facilitating true direct-trade relationships. Sisters Coffee Company is one, eager for a second relationship like the one they’ve developed in Guatemala.

Justin Durham of Sisters Coffee says they are “so psyched to bring in Ugandan coffee.” Durham plans to start by purchasing small quantities, then “hopefully growing it into a sustainable long-term relationship. We want the few we have to be really deep relationships.”

The Ugandan farmers are benefitting on all fronts. The large buying corporations are being held to higher standards, paying better prices. “Now they know. By educating the farmers, they’re becoming liberated,” says Rawlins.

Hornbeck and Rawlins’ stake in KaBuM ends when the loans are paid off. Then, says Rawlins, “We’re out.”

They’ll remain only as consultants and member farmers. 3000 acres were secured on this past trip, an investment in Ugandan coffee for its value as a renewable resource, with profits cycling back into Testimony School. “We’re not interested in making money from coffee. We are interested in making money for Testimony School,” emphasizes Rawlins.

Kapchorwa School Dedication 012

Rawlins points out the higher costs involved in supporting students through secondary school, and he envisions scholarships for Kapchorwan students who show the aptitude for a university education.

Uganda seems to be opening its eyes to future possibilities and its doors to the western coffee culture. Since 2003, Rawlins and Hornbeck watched at least eight attractive coffeehouses spring up in the capital city of Kampala.

In the same period, the faith of the Sabiny tribe grew and some members of Christ Glorious Church even risked their lives to make peace with their life-long enemies. They built a well for – and offered forgiveness to – the machine gun and machete-toting Karamojong raiders who killed their loved ones and burned their homes. Women from both tribes cried together.

A whole lot of Sisters folks took part in the planting and watering of seeds of change in Uganda.

Today, it appears those seeds are taking root, as emboldened farmers are poised to harvest more than just coffee beans this fall. The hope of an educated and revitalized Africa hangs heavy and pregnant from the limbs of countless thriving coffee trees on the dense slopes of Mt Elgon.

Meanwhile, sitting at a table in Sisters Coffee Company, Hornbeck leans forward and his gentle eyes seem to spark as he says, “If coffee enables the country to develop economically – that’s everything. That’s what will change Africa.”

For more information on the outward projects of Sisters Community Church including child sponsorships, contact Paul Rawlins at 541-549-1201 or email

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