The JMI is a network of African smallholder coffee co-operatives and UK-based Fair Trade pioneer, Twin.
Realising our potential
In 2007, a Twin survey revealed an untapped global appetite for African certified Fairtrade and organic smallholder specialty coffees. At the time, the only well-known origin was Ethiopia and it was supplying nine tenths of the existing market. This represented an exciting opportunity for producers who today make up the JMI network.
With support from Comic Relief, the JMI began as a pilot to trial the concept and model with Twin’s existing partners. Gumutindo’s farmers were already producing exceptional quality Fairtrade Organic Arabica on Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda. Fifty per cent of their board members are women – a groundbreaking dynamic in African business. Gumutindo had all the criteria to supply the specialty coffee market, they just needed to engage buyers in what they were doing. In the beautiful Misuku Hills of Malawi, Mzuzu’s farmers have led the way in sustainable production, improving quality and yields; whilst in DR Congo, against the backdrop of the shimmering waters of Lake Kivu, and in the face of decades of war and isolation, smallholder coffee farmers have been at the forefront of reviving the Eastern Congo coffee sector and bringing its fabulous coffees back into the market.
‘Lighting many candles’
From these foundations, a new generation of co-operatives have since been inspired to join the JMI and follow in their footsteps. At a summit meeting in June 2012 in Tanzania, the JMI was officially established by the co-operatives and Twin. The partnership includes Ankole Coffee Producers’ Co-operative Union, Bukonzo Joint Co-operative, Bukonzo Organic Farmers Co-operative and Gumutindo Coffee Co-operative Enterprise in Uganda; Furaha Co-operative and Muungano Coffee Co-operative in DR Congo; Mzuzu Coffee Planters Co-operative Union in Malawi; and KOPAKAMA in Rwanda.
As Willington Wamayeye of Gumutindo summarises, ‘The key to the success of the JMI is in sharing it with all the members. We are not fighting for buyers; we are lighting many candles.’
A bright future
The JMI is a truly producer-driven venture with its members determined to continue to grow to embrace more smallholder co-operatives in the coming years.
The JMI is proudly spearheading a revival in Africa’s reputation for producing some of the finest quality coffees in the world, with smallholder farmers at the heart of the movement.