Written by Mountain Harvest team, Photos by Jjumba Martin and Nico Herr
Research indicates that diversification is important for enhancing food and livelihood security, adapting to climate change, and conserving and protecting natural resources. Although coffee remains the main source of income for many households, farmers often complement their livelihood portfolios with other on-farm production, off-farm labor, and non-farm sources of income. Understanding this, Mountain Harvest has dedicated itself to an innovative suite of farmer services directly related to the farmers’ unique needs. Looking at their small garden, they are growing more than just coffee. They are growing sustenance for their families such as potatoes, onions, beans, maize, banana, jackfruit, and more. To bring in more sustaining income year-round, Mountain Harvest has partnered with local Ugandan companies that have niche agricultural businesses, such as honey or hass avocado businesses. These businesses agree to train farmers in the care of the products and then become purchasers of the honey and fruits the farmers cultivate, supporting their own supply chains via the farmers we work with. This closed loop system ensures quality of produce and health of the household, while supporting the ecosystem of the farmland. By taking this approach to farmer services, we ensure the sustainability of the projects we launch, while ensuring that farmers feel a sense of ownership.
Since 2017, Mountain Harvest has launched various income diversification programs utilizing high quality beans, macadamia seedlings, hass avocado seedlings, beehives, rabbits, and more. With each of these programs, we require three key elements:
- The product serves the natural ecosystem necessary to build resiliency of the farmland.
- The business partnership is local to train and purchase product directly from farmers, ensuring market access.
- The product creates income generation outside of the coffee harvest season to build resiliency of the household.
As so often it takes time to see the fruits of our labor, we celebrate a season of abundance seen from the projects, led by our Project Manager, Agnes K.
In just the last few months, we have seen delicious honeycombs being harvested, the avocado trees flourishing, and rabbits having their first litters.
In the 2022 season, Mountain Harvest delivered 158 beehives across 10 communities. In 2023, we were able to buy back 332 kgs of fresh honeycomb. See Makali farmer inspecting his new hives.
Avocados being inspected by our local business partner. The first seen fruits from the 1100 hass avocado seedlings provided on Mount Elgon in March 2023.
Rabbits being delivered to Mount Elgon communities. Rabbits are a source of food, local sale, and their waste are an excellent source of organic fertilizer and pest control. This year, 2023, we were able to deliver about 1000 rabbits to farmers, beginning to buy rabbits from their litters (approx. 100) to grow the program slowly in other regions.
For the coffee curious:
- Waarts, Y. R., Janssen, V., Aryeetey, R., Onduru, D., Heriyanto, D., Tin Aprillya, S., N’Guessan, A., Courbois, L., Bakker, D., & Ingram, V. J. (2021). Multiple pathways towards achieving a living income for different types of smallholder tree crop commodity farmers. Food Security.
- Wageningen University & Mondelez International Cocoa Life. (2021). BALANCING THE LIVING INCOME CHALLENGE: Towards a multi-actor approach to achieving a living income for cocoa farmers.
- Janica Anderzén, Alejandra Guzmán Luna, Diana V. Luna-González, Scott C. Merrill, Martha Caswell, V. Ernesto Méndez, Rigoberto Hernández Jonapá, Mateo Mier y Terán Giménez Cacho, Effects of on-farm diversification strategies on smallholder coffee farmer food security and income sufficiency in Chiapas, Mexico, Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 77, 2020, Pages 33-46, ISSN 0743-0167, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.001.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0743016719311611)
- Busting myths to reveal the reality around living incomeshttps://www.idhsustainabletrade.com/news/busting-myths-to-reveal-the-reality-around-living-incomes/