Eastern and central Africa

First certified producer in eastern and central Africa

Name of organisation: Kagera Cooperative Union

Fairtrade since: 1990

Product: Coffee

Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU), in the north-west of Tanzania, is the oldest and largest Fairtrade co-operative in Africa. Its 60,000 coffee farmers are proof of what Fairtrade can achieve. Just 20 percent of KCU farmers are women – coffee is seen in the country as a man’s crop – but the cooperative has made recent strides to increase equality.

There are numerous other signs that KCU is an organisation which understands how to build security for its future and bring real benefits to local communities. It has constructed roads and bridges to link farming groups to the coffee collection areas, helping the farmers who have to transport their crops across the hillsides. It has invested in an instant coffee factory which exports to different African countries. It has helped with the construction of many schools and health centres. It has spent money on organic conversion to help the environment and to gain bigger returns for the farmers. It has purchased hulling machines to speed up the coffee product process, getting the coffee to market sooner. It even owns a cooperative bank and two boarding houses to ensure that, no matter what happens with the coffee price, its future is secure.

KCU is truly a successful business. It is run professionally, democratically and purely to benefit its members, their families and communities. Fairtrade Africa is proud to have these pioneering smallholders among the initial team that came together to form the first Board of Fairtrade Africa.

This organisation has provided a benchmark to other upcoming Fairtrade organisations including miners of east Africa who are soon to receive Fairtrade certification.

While addressing miners in 2014 during an exchange visit, John Kajangaile the Export Manager of KCU, explained, “Fairtrade is about learning from one another.” He was pleased to find out that Tina Mwasha, who is working with the Tanzanian gold miners to improve conditions and safety, is a former pupil of Hekima Girls Secondary School – a school supported by KCU as part of its drive to empower women through education.

Kajangaile explained that farmers selling to the Fairtrade market can be paid twice as much as those selling conventionally. He took the miners back to the very beginnings of Fairtrade in his organisation. “We took a risk and borrowed money in order to buy and sell a trial Fairtrade shipment. This hadn’t been done before. It was a very big gamble for us but we managed it. We were given advice on how to market and trade the coffee and we are now professionals.

“When we talk about Fairtrade, most people think of price and premium,” he added, “But for us it’s a connection point between small-scale producers and the rest of the world. We share and exchange ideas. We sell to the UK, Europe, Japan and even New Zealand. We hope to sell to the US next year, thanks to our new organic project.”

The next ten years

Looking to the future, Kajangaile says, “Fairtrade continues to attract the attention of producers and consumers who believe in responsible production, sourcing and marketing. I  see more awareness being created about behaving responsibily towards people and the environment.  Let each of us play our part.

“When we are united, small-scale African producers stand together to cope with this globalized world. This is the future we need with Fairtrade Africa.”