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How a new Welsh-Ugandan social enterprise can help fight climate change

A leading coffee farmer from Uganda, Jenipher Sambazi, and entrepreneur from south Wales, Elen Jones, have shown politicians, corporations and others at COP26, how social enterprise can help fight climate change.

Launched in the face of adversity, Jenipher’s Coffi was born at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. The plan to sell her cooperative’s unroasted green beans wholesale were quickly under threat, as cafes shut shop and world markets faced uncertainty.

Recognising that more people were drinking coffee in their homes in lockdown, Elen spotted an opportunity: roast in Wales to sell at retail, and put the farmer, her friend Jenipher, front and centre of the brand. Jenipher’s Coffi is now getting snapped up in cafes and shops all over Wales.

Jenipher is the first female chair of her cooperative, where she represents more than 3,500 farmers. As a social enterprise, Elen is committed to paying a good price for their premium, hand-picked and organically grown Arabica coffee beans, and has bold ambitions to reach net zero.

Farming on the front line of the climate crisis high on the slopes of Mount Elgon, Jenipher knows first hand the threats that climate change presents to farmers across the world. The region where she lives has seen an increase in devastating landslides that have destroyed farms and villages in recent years, causing death tolls in their hundreds. Last year, though living on the equator, a huge hailstone storm led to floods that ripped through her village, destroying crops from coffee to cassava.

The global coffee supply at-large is at risk from climate change, with studies suggesting about half of the land used to grow high-quality coffee will be unproductive by 2050. Tree planting and agroforestry methods practised by Jenipher and the farmers she represents are vital in helping to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather and help reach global climate targets.

Jenipher said: “I am seeing in my community how climate change and the pandemic are not only causing a loss to life and livelihoods, but they are also leading to an increase in girl marriages as families become more desperate for their future.

Hail storms are damaging our crops and heavy rainfall is leading to flooding and landslides, made worse by deforestation – which often has poverty at its root.

Through getting a fair price for our product, our cooperative is able to have far-reaching impacts in our communities: we educate people in how to plant the right trees and mix of crops to help them be resilient against climate change, we empower women to start their own enterprises*, and we encourage girls into school instead of arranged marriages. Now we need our politicians , businesses and all of us to make the right decisions for our planet, so we can all survive, and thrive together.

Elen Jones, Co-founder and Operations Director of Jenipher’s Coffi said: “It has been really powerful to see people in Wales enjoying a delicious cup of Jenipher’s Coffi and getting to know all the hard work that goes into producing it. This start-up was born from a special partnership between Wales and Uganda, where communities on other sides of the world have united to work, share and learn. We are here together at COP26 to say ‘there is a better way of doing business, and we are proving it.’

As well as ensuring everyone is getting paid properly and supporting those on the front line dealing with climate change, we also want to decarbonise as much as we can, where we can. We are even looking to see if our next batch of coffee can arrive on Welsh shores via windship. If everyone did business this way, would we be where we are now with climate change? I doubt it!

Farmers that grow Jenipher’s Coffi are part of a Welsh Government initiative to plant 25 million trees in Uganda by 2025.

The above article first published on in Nov, 2021.