Producer Profiles

Mubuku Moringa Vanilla Farmers Association

The Mubuku Moringa Vanilla Farmers Association is located in the Ruwenzori Mountains of western Uganda. The landscape in this region is breathtaking - mountains in various shades of green, one on top of the other, climbing towards billowing clouds. It is in this fertile valley with crater lakes and high humidity that some of the highest quality vanilla in the world can be found. And while the flavor of this vanilla is praised, the small farmers growing it were once not able to make a decent living and considered cutting down their vanilla plants. Thankfully, the Mubuku Vanilla Farmers Association was formed in 2005, saving both the vanilla plants and the livelihood of farmers. The Association, an umbrella organization that now consists of 14 vanilla farming cooperatives, encourages farmers to improve their quality and production techniques and thus access better markets.

The organization joined efforts with the exporter and processor Ndali Estates who offered to partner with farmers while they sought access to better markets. This search for “a stable, reliable and honest” market for Ugandan vanilla farmers empowered them to pursue their economic and social development, leading them to seek their Fair Trade certification. Since becoming certified, Mubuku Vanilla Farmers have come a long way. They are now able to supply 16 metric tons of organic and Fair Trade Certified™ vanilla to international markets.

Despite great progress with Fair Trade certification, most farmers still face many issues –high poverty levels and low access to decent education. Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations in the world, but cannot keep up with adequate educational facilities. The recent global decline in vanilla prices also affected farmers with many unable to sell their vanilla. The production of a single crop for export in this extremely volatile world market leaves the vanilla farmers with very few options to react to changes in the market and take control of their lives.

As the demand for Fair Trade products continues to grow, the farmers of Mubuku Moringa hope to sell more Fair Trade Certified vanilla to better support the livelihoods of their families and community.
 

Quotable

A vanilla farmer's story:

Since the recession began, a few young daughters of vanilla growing families have taken to prostitution to make up for family income losses. As a result, some heads of the household say they have lost control over their families, but they see Fair Trade as a sign of hope, a way to get started. Lulu Sturdy, director of Ndali Estates and supporter of Mubuku Vanilla Farmers adds to the farmer's story:

“Although farmers' Fair Trade sales are not large enough to cause big changes in his life situation, it gives him hope for the future - hope to be able to improve not only his own economic situation, but also his surroundings.”  

Mbusa Joesph, Chairman

Programs

Health Care Initiatives

The Mubuku Vanilla Farmer Association established the Karugutu Health Clinic and an emergency health fund. So far, the Association has been able to address few, but urgent, operations needed for several members' children.

Schools and Scholarships

The Mobuku Vanilla Farmers Association replaced the roof of a local school and provided specialist level academic scholarships for members. The association also sponsored a few key members' participation at the Fair Trade East Africa Expo to help farmers gain better market insight and network with fellow producers.

Office Equipment and New Milling Machine

The Mubuku Vanilla Farmers Association invested in their office infrastructure – computers, a printer, desks, chairs and book cases. They also purchased and installed a new maize milling machine at one of their farming units to improve productivity.