Producer Profile: KNCU, Tanzania

Written by Cafe Campesino on Jan 5, 2010 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |

KNCU has been in the coffee business for a long time. Its roots go back to 1933 when it was founded as a registered union under Tanzania’s Cooperative Societies Ordinance. After the government dissolved the union in the 1970s (along with the rest of the Tanzanian unions/cooperatives), it took over a decade for KNCU to reestablish itself. Currently, the Union trades coffee with 67 Primary Cooperative Societies, representing 60,000 farmer members. The actual number of members is higher but because of the industry’s trend towards liberalization, many of the members sell their coffee to private buyers as opposed to the association.

Female members of Kilimanjaro Native Coffee Union in Tanzania, Africa

The Union operates democratically with an elected Board of Directors and administrative staff for the Union itself as well as a Board and secretariat for each of the primary societies.  About 7% of members are women, most of them heirs to their deceased husbands’ membership. KNCU is currently engaged in a union-wide effort to increase female membership in the cooperatives.

Quality is a primary focus of KNCU. The Union believes that small-scale farming is the best way to achieve the highest quality coffee. Most of the members’ plots are between 0.5 and 1.5 acres per family, at altitudes up to 6500 feet above sea level. The core function of the Union is to “coordinate, organize and sensitize the farmers on the production of quality and increased quantity of coffee.” In 2005, it began a Coffee Quality Improvement Program with the aim of extending knowledge and expertise to create a better product and thereby receive a better price for its members. KNCU helps members process the crop and market the coffee abroad.

Since obtaining FLO certification in 1993, the Fair Trade premium has allowed members to establish a collective educational fund for scholarships to the farmers’ children, to build and operate schools, to finance the organic transition of 7 primary societies, to help finance the Quality Improvement Program, to grow a coffee nursery, and finally, to help finance a cooperative bank allowing producers to obtain loans and create savings and credit programs. KNCU is most definitely a success story when it comes to Fair Trade!

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