Formerly known as Nsangi Coffee Farmers Association (NCFA), CECOFA was founded in 2005 by a small group of entrepreneurial farmers and is now made up of 3,200 employees (of which 750 are women) within the districts of central Uganda.
CECOFA AND THE NEXT GENERATION
However, although the number of employees rose, ageing of the farming population is an all too familiar problem in many coffee regions. It is extremely difficult to motivate young people to cultivate coffee and to carry on the work. However, CEFOCA tries to encourage this by linking coffee to football! CECOFA was even the first producer organisation in Uganda to involve young people in coffee farming as a business through games and sports as the entry point. As a result, these efforts bear fruit and youngsters gradually start to invest in coffee trees again.
Due to the rather high rainfall figure of the region, the quality of CECOFA’s Robusta is excellent. In addition, the cooperative is also located near Kampala, meaning that transport costs are low. On top of that, CECOFA is also one of the few producer groups in Uganda that has a bean peeling machine (which increases its productivity). Nonetheless, CECOFA’s primary problem was its dependence on two major Ugandan exporters with which it has worked for many years. Even though one of them helped CECOFA obtain its fair trade certification in 2014, the cooperative did not succeed in selling a single container under fair trade conditions in 2016. Although they ensure a relatively stable flow of sales, exporters can also stand between the cooperative and international clients. For instance, Nucafe evolved from being a matchmaker between the Ugandan producers and international purchasers to a fully fledged exporter holding the reins of trade. Since Nsangi [former name] was too dependent on the Ugandan exporter, the organisation was in danger of losing its contact with old customers. As a result, CECOFA’s weakest point was again marketing, which led the cooperative to experiment in exports under its own management.
“Nsangi realise that they will need to take control of the situation themselves to do prospecting for new customers. In addition, they must also have the quality of their coffee analysed, get to know the price structure of the entire chain and develop a sales narrative. The coaching programme scheduled for 2016 definitively came in handy.” Josiane Droeghag, marketing officer at the TDC
TDC ‘s MARKETING SUPPORT PROGRAM
From there, CECOFA was selected for the TDC’s full marketing coaching programme, including multi-day coaching sessions. Tailored to the needs of the cooperation, i.e. improving CECOFA members’ market access, the programme took place from June 2016 to December 2017 and helped the organisation find potential customers, as the following data will show.
IN SEARCH OF RECOGNITION
Due to the change of name, the marketing budget of 15,000 euros (which came with the coaching) was spent on promotion: a new logo, business cards, posters, banners, vehicle stickers, a new website, Facebook page, uniforms for staff members and football shirts for the youth team.
In 2016, two CECOFA managers attended speciality coffee trade fairs in Africa and Europe to promote CECOFA. Success followed when a French coffee, cocoa and vanilla importer contracted CECOFA and was willing to contribute to the costs involved in 4C and possibly Rainforest Alliance certification. As a reminder, 4C is a basic code of conduct used by various major coffee roasters and Rainforest Alliance is an international label for sustainable agriculture.
TRAIN WITH PLENTY OF PLANS
“The TDC coaching sessions have opened our eyes. It seems like our train is only starting now. Slowly still. But it is a long train, with plenty of plans.” Ronald Buule, manager of CECOFA.
CECOFA itself dreams of organic certification to boost its market opportunities. For now, that step is too expensive, but the team is convinced that it can succeed in doing so in the future. A more feasible idea is ‘Kaawa Waffe’, literally ‘our own coffee’, to sell coffee locally, using transporter bikes at football tournaments. It is not so much for sales volumes, but rather for farmers’ recognition and pride.
The marketing support has helped to:
- improve the cooperative image (new logo/corporate communication.)
- better negotiate with buyers (participation in fairs + direct contact established with the Belgian coffee roaster and distributor Beyers)
- Strengthen their professionalism (Purchase of quality control machine + installation of a mini-laboratory within the company for coffee quality control)
- Increase sales volume (in 10 years, it has risen from 2 export containers to 13 (of which 10 are Fair Trade).
Impacts (2014 – 2017) :
- Production growth: + 144,41 %
- Turnover growth: + 353,96 %
- Evolution of selling prices: + 22,92 %
- Evolution of customers portfolio: + 3
- Evolution of the certified production: + 104,67%
- Evolution of the share of selling under fair trade or sustainable conditions: from 0% (in 2014) to 67% (in 2017)
- Participation at 2 fairs
- Producers’ income growth: + 69.57 %