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Gumutindo farmer, Oliva, depends on her crops to support her family. Recent erratic weather has made growing crops difficult.

Gumutindo farmer, Oliva, depends on her crops to support her family. Recent erratic weather has made growing crops difficult.

Still Standing: Unpredictable Weather Threatens Gumutindo’s Coffee Farmers

By Annalise Romoser

Oliva is a hardworking coffee farmer and a sharp business woman. “The money I make goes right into my own pocket!” she exclaims. But recent erratic weather in her native Uganda have made growing coffee and supporting her seven children more difficult.

“I mostly pay school fees for my children and buy them clothes. But I can usually save a little,” says Oliva. She’s proud to report that her oldest child is in college and that her family eats well because she also raises food crops.

Oliva represents one of the many successful coffee farmers living in the shade of Uganda’s beautiful Mt. Elgon. And she is a member of the thriving Gumutindo coffee cooperative, well known to U.S. Lutherans who drink Fair Trade coffee from the LWR Coffee Project.

But recently changing weather patterns in the Mt. Elgon region hindered Oliva’s success. “When the weather behaves, I can harvest up to six bags of coffee cherries,” Oliva explains. “But this season, I only harvested three bags.”

In 2010, unusually heavy and unseasonal rains damaged coffee trees around Mt. Elgon and resulted in lower yields. The rains also caused landslides, washing away three villages and killing 350 people.

Last year, Oliva’s coffee income wasn’t enough to support her family. To make ends meet, she was forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to sell portions of crops she would otherwise use to feed her family.

Coffee is a very delicate crop that requires a unique environment and specific amount of rain to thrive. Shifts in weather patterns are a major challenge to coffee farmers, who depend on crop production for income and survival.

To help, LWR is working with Gumutindo to protect their crops and the coffee you enjoy drinking.

One such project teaches farmers to use terracing techniques to prevent soil erosion from the mountain slopes where they farm their coffee. Terracing is the practice of building up mounds on hills to preserve water and protect soil quality.

As an incentive to participate, farmers received trees to plant and training on where and how to plant them. The trees, like terracing, help prevent soil erosion and lessen the chance of serious landslides. They also act as windbreakers, protecting vital food crops, such as bananas and maize, and cash crops like coffee.

A total of 750 families participated in this project, planting more than 100,000 trees!

Interventions like reforestation and terracing are critical to helping farmers adapt to the effects of changing weather patterns. Gumutindo staff and farmers have come to realize that erratic weather will remain a challenge. But they now know that if they focus on learning to adapt, their production can and will continue.

This project is just one way LWR is helping rural communities adapt to unpredictable weather conditions so they can face the future with hope. With your purchases of Gumutindo Coffee from the LWR Coffee project, you support that work and keep it going.

There’s also another easy way to help. Sign up to receive LWR Advocacy Alerts and you’ll be the first to know when your brothers and sisters around the world need your help. Responding to alerts takes just a few moments but makes a big difference when LWR speaks to policymakers.

Because of the training she received, Oliva is able to continue growing coffee and earning an income to support her family. She’s also able to work toward her dream of educating her children. And to her, that means everything.

Your purchases from the LWR Coffee Project support farmers like Oliva, helping them to meet present challenges while paving a way for the future. Learn more about the LWR Coffee Project and how you can get involved.

Annalise Romoser is LWR’s Director for Public Policy and Advocacy.
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