Endangered Ugandan mountain gorillas have received much-needed help thanks to a partnership between coffee farmers and a nonprofit organization. These majestic primates, which are found only in a few isolated regions of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have long struggled to survive due to habitat loss, poaching, and disease. However, with the help of dedicated conservationists and coffee farmers, they are finally getting the support they need to thrive. The partnership between the farmers and the nonprofit has not only helped to protect the gorillas and their habitats, but it has also provided a sustainable source of income for the local community. This collaboration is a shining example of how conservation and economic development can go hand in hand, and it offers hope for the future of these endangered gorillas.
Who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee? It is one of the few drinks that you find in some form in most countries. In the US coffee is an important part of the social fabric of our culture. We have cafes, clubs and even group gatherings. It is part of our daily routine and in the age of the internet, of course there are memes that extol the virtues of coffee. At work there’s the coffee break even for those who don’t want a cup of joe.
Few people would make the connection that their choice of coffee could help a critically endangered species like mountain gorillas. Like many wild animals, gorillas are under pressure from poachers who want their fur, legs and heads as trophies. The bushmeat trade is another threat they face. Habitat loss and degradation of increasingly polluted air, water and soil are a constant threat. If we could help alleviate some of these problems by changing the brand of coffee we drink, why wouldn’t we?
Economy of coffee
Roasted Arabica coffee beans
The United States is one of the largest coffee-consuming countries and the world’s largest importer of coffee beans, spending more than $6 billion in 2021, equivalent to more than 3 billion pounds of beans. For many countries that export coffee beans, it is like a magic bean that employs thousands of workers. Unlike other commodities like oil and diamonds, coffee appears to be a welcome addition to the world trade scene without much controversy. But all is not well. In a world with an exploding human population and poverty, coffee production has been criticized over the years for various economic, political and environmental issues.
Colombia is the largest exporter of coffee to the US This partnership is not without problems. Like many South American countries, Colombia has experienced several political transitions, many of which affect the coffee trade. In 1989 the New York Times reported on the collapse of our agreement with the coffee growers. Our relationship since then has been tenuous at best. “We need the coffee revenue to effectively fight cocaine,” said an aide to President Virgilio Barco Vargas. At one point, Colombian officials had quietly suggested that they would flood the streets with cocaine if we continued to reject an increase in the price of their coffee beans. Eventually coffee prices went up and our streets were flooded with cocaine. Should we still trade with a country that trades like a street thug?
There is good news when it comes to this hot product. Not all coffee comes from difficult business partners. There is a non-profit organization in Uganda that is trying to combine its desire to save the endangered mountain gorillas with helping local coffee farmers. This partnership is designed to avoid clashes over land use. As the human population continues to grow, the need to use more land to grow crops to meet those needs often creates a battle over who gets the land. Wildlife habitat encroachment is an ongoing crisis.
Gorilla Conservation Coffee is a social enterprise of Conservation Through Public Health. This is an organization that promotes coexistence between people and wildlife living together in Uganda. Of particular interest are the endangered mountain gorillas. This brand is the brainchild of Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, who was the first Wildlife Veterinary Officer of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. He had a passion for helping both struggling farmers and gorillas.
Rafiki with his family before he died on 6/21/20.
“Saving the gorillas one sip at a time” is their motto…
Mountain gorilla Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Just outside the border of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were coffee farmers struggling to make a living. This created a dangerous situation for wildlife inside the park, which were increasingly at risk as farmers searched the park for food and timber. For any species struggling to survive, any confrontation with humans will never end with them winning. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka saw a way to help by raising the price paid for his coffee, which lessens his need to attack the park. Once an agreement was reached Gorilla Conservation Coffee was born.
Uganda is known for producing some of the best coffee beans in the world. Premium Arabica coffee is considered one of the best. What could be better than helping to make a difference by giving farmers a living wage i helping to save the endangered gorillas?
An Arabica coffee estate outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
How it works
Coffee farmers near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are independent and small. They are not part of the billion dollar corporate conglomerates that have money and infrastructure at their disposal. These small farmers struggle to support their families. Their crops have begun to encroach on the land outside the park, endangering the gorillas’ home.
Dr.Kalema-Zikusoka working with some of the farmers.Not all farmers are men, some women have their own farms.
According to Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka, “Gorilla Conservation Coffee pays coffee farmers $0.50 per kilo above the market price.” This helps them earn a living without damaging the park. His organization also “provides training in sustainable coffee cultivation and processing to bring farmers’ coffee to a high standard while improving their yield.” Close contact with humans also exposes gorillas to many health problems and potential diseases, so visits to their habitat are limited in group size and time spent there.
How to help the gorillas
Gorilla Conservation Coffee is available in several countries from the United States to Australia. For those living or visiting Uganda, they even have a Gorilla Conservation Café, the first of its kind, located in Entebbe, where you can grab a fresh cup any day of the week. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka explains that “$1.50 from every kilo of roasted coffee is donated directly to support Conservation Through Public Health’s work with gorillas and the local community.” Special tours are also available where visitors can see how the program works through Conservation field sites through public health around protected areas and learn how gorillas benefit from them. “For tourists in Uganda, they can learn a lot more about coffee through a coffee safari at a farm near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. They can experience the journey of coffee from bean to cup.”
There are so many nonprofits competing for donations. The best ones are the ones that show you where your donation is going and how it benefits those in need. What better reason to choose a coffee brand than one that helps both people and animals? As says Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka “When you order a gorilla conservation coffee, you’re not only supporting small coffee farmers, you’re also saving the endangered mountain gorillas, a donation from every bag sold goes to community health, gorilla health education and conservation through CTPH.” That sounds like the perfect finishing touch to a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Gorilla Conservation Coffee is available in the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia and Kenya, click here to see where it’s available and help gorillas by ordering Gorilla Conservation Coffee from a stockist near you. https://gorillaconservationcoffee.org/where-to-buy/
In Uganda, Gorilla Conservation Coffee Café is located at Plot 13 Portal Road in Entebbe, about 10 minutes drive from Entebbe International Airport.
Click here to see what tours are available where you can learn and see first hand how the program works and the gorillas that benefit from it https://ctph.org/book-an-intimate-gorilla-experience/
To learn more about these coffee-saving gorillas, visit their website at www.gccoffee.org.