Rwenzori Kisinga Station | Empowering Coffee Farmers

Genuine Origin
5 min readSep 1, 2020

The magnificent Rwenzori Mountains, famously known as the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, stretch for 120km along Western Uganda and are home to the Bakonzo tribe. The high altitude, fertile soils and plentiful rainfall provide perfect conditions for growing coffee trees beans, while the pristine snow-capped peaks and the glaciers give rise to many rivers.

The Rwenzori region has a long coffee tradition. With on average 2 acres, Bakonzo farmers manually process their cherries. Coffee is a source of income that allows small growers to support their families and improve their homes. While farmers traditionally sell parchment and kibokos (dried cherries), more and more choose to sell their freshly-picked red cherries to washing-stations. This enables farmers to access quick payment for coffee, and takes away the risk of drying coffee, many of whom are not well equipped to dry coffee.

Our sister company in Uganda, Kyagalanyi Coffee Limited, and its partner in Rwenzori, Agri Evolve Ltd., are operating two washing stations in Kasese, in the heart of Rwenzori. While the Rwenzoris are known for producing almost exclusively Naturals (95%), our washing stations produce fully-washed, honeys and also experiment with Pura Cepa fermentations.

Entrance to Kisinga Washing Station

Kisinga & Bugoye Washing Stations

Located 25km southwest of Kasese, the Kisinga Washing Station was built in 2015 to explore the full potential of Rwenzori’s arabica coffee and to support farmers improving their yields, profits and subsequently their living conditions.

In response to the growing number of farmers delivering their cherries to the washing station, Agri Evolve and Kyagalanyi built a second washing station in 2019, in Bugoye, north of the Kasese district.

Instead of just focusing on the processing of the cherries, Jonny from Agri Evolve and his team mobilized the whole community to take a vested interest in coffee production: from empowering farmers in the care of the coffee trees — with the implementation of the Volcafe Way program — to the importance of picking only red cherries, or implementing basics social benefits helping the workers in the long-run. Employees of Agri Evolve benefit from health insurance, a pension plan and receive their wages on a bank account (this practice — which helps build up savings — is not common in Uganda)

The success of the project relies on the deep-rooted commitment to economic sustainability with a clear commercial view, not just a charitable one. As Jonny says: “The best way to help the community is to buy their coffee!”

Drying beds in Bugoye Washing Station

A Network of Buying Stations

While the topography allows to build big washing stations (compared to the Mount Elgon area for instance), the transport of cherries from the mountain slopes to the washing stations remains a challenge for many farmers. To overcome it, Agri Evolve created 20 Buying Stations, where farmers can deliver and sell their cherries. Each Buying Station is a business run by a farmer, from which Agri Evolve buys the ripe cherries. Instead of owning the whole supply chain, they have put in place an economic structure that fosters self-empowerment and sane competition.

Every buying station keeps track of its purchase and make those data available to Agri Evolve. Depending on the quality and the quantity of each delivery, lots are kept separate to create “Buying Station” lots and trace the coffee down the the farmers.

Producers have delivered their harvest at the Ibanda Buying Station and sort the unripe cherries out. Run by Celestio, Ibanda Buying Station employs 12 people, works with 200 farmers and delivers to the Bugoye Washing Station. (Nov 2019)

The Donkey Lots

Many coffee farmers live high up on the slopes of the Rwenzori mountain range, which culminates at more than 5,000 M.A.S.L. The higher the coffee grows, the more slowly it matures and the more complex the cup profiles are.

To access the farms situated up the mountains off the beaten tracks, Agri Evolve has invested in donkeys which collect the ripe cherries of the farms located in remote areas.

The cherries are kept separate and assembled in “Donkey Lots”, which celebrate the uniqueness and exclusivity of the coffee cherries.

Pura Cepa — Controlled Coffee Processing

Pura Cepa Stainless steel fermentation tank in Kisinga Coffee Station, Kasese

Conceptualized in 2016 by Latorre & Durch, Pura Cepa is a project based on controlled processing on a microbiological level, to revolutionize the current techniques available to coffee farmers at origin. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible without compromising support for the coffee farmers, the core principle of the project is centered around innovation in fermentation, drying process and sustainability.

Fermentation & Coffee Flavor

During the fermentation, microorganisms (yeast & bacteria) “eat” the mucilaginous layer of the coffee bean, which produces chemical compounds called ester. Volatile ethyl esters are one of the produced compounds that are particularly important for the production of flavor and aroma in coffee. As an example, the ethyl decanoate compound brings floral attributes, while ethyl hexanoate green apple or pineapple attributes.

In addition to controlling variables like temperature, time, pH or sugar content, the Pura Cepa protocol includes the addition of a “kefir” that aids fermentation and ensures that counterproductive bacteria are eliminated from the process. To influence the produced esters and to enhance the most desired flavors, selected microorganisms are added as well.

Kyagalanyi and Agri Evolve are actively running Pura Cepa fermentation experiments to innovate and push the envelope of quality of Rwenzori coffees. Through the running of two washing stations — in Kisinga and Bugoye Trading Centers — we are closely involved in the communities. We believe that, by improving our processing, we will improve the quality of coffees we produce, influence better cherry-picking practices and consequently the livelihood of coffee farmers will improve.

Check out Genuine Origin’s Rwenzori offering:

Uganda Rwenzori Kisinga Station Natural

Flavor: Blackberry, Dark Chocolate, Cane Sugar

Body: Heavy

Acidity: Medium

Process: Natural

Cup Score: 86

Varietals: SL14, SL28

Producers: Smallholders, Kyagalanyi Ltd

Packaging: 65lb Box w GrainPro Bag

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Copyright Genuine Origin — Original content published by Volcafe Select.

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Genuine Origin

We make it easy for small roasters to buy the trace-able, sustainable green coffee while empowering 50,000+ coffee producers. www.genuineorigin.com