Anyone who has used lockdown to test their at-home baristas skills will know how hard it is to meet the standards of a trusted coffee shop. Barista competitions and the proliferation of training programmes shows that there is an appetite for getting that pour just right. Less acknowledged are the training programmes that take place at the initial stages of the specialty coffee supply chain on farms in coffee growing regions. In Brazil and Uganda, two farms have developed training programmes that impact both their employees and neighbouring communities.
Located in southwestern Uganda is Kingha Coffee Company, set up by Kingsley Griffin in 2015 to help smallholder farmers process and sell their coffee. Employees are hired locally and receive professional training while earning a fair daily wage. Weekly training is part of the programming for employees, while members of the local community use facilities to receive training on topics within and beyond the boundaries of coffee.
Below are responses from Griffin in which he unpacks Kingha’s approach to training.
You have 85 employees during the peak of the season. How does each team member get trained on their role? Does their role change during the season?
Each employee is trained specially for their role when they start work. If they are picking coffee they are given training on which cherries to pick (only the red ripe ones), how to pick them (with out breaking off the nodes), and how to care for the trees as they move around the coffee estate. Some employees are trained in multiple roles so they can increase their overall skill set. This means that the staff member who is working on pulping coffee is also trained on picking, sorting, grading, washing and drying. It is important that all staff in the production line know how to fulfil each role so that Kingha can maintain its strict quality control through the coffee harvesting, pulping, sorting and drying process. All staff are given refresher training at the start of each coffee season.
How many pupils have been trained in coffee knowledge at Bugiri Primary School?
Initially we trained one primary class, their teachers and the headmaster. We will be returning to the school in two months, just prior to the harvest season, to further train them in proper picking, sorting and grading techniques. However, all schools are currently closed due to COVID-19.
How many students come for the secondary schools each week (St. James School, Karangara Community School, Nyamiyaga Secondary School)? Is there a set curriculum that each student goes through? How many hours does this include?
Currently there are no students training at Kingha Coffee. All schools in Uganda are closed due to Covid 19. When the program was running we had an 8 week curriculum, designed by myself and my team. I was a school teacher for 12 years so I have a lot of background knowledge in curriculum design and implementation. The students would generally come for the morning session, have lunch and Kingha, and return to their respective schools in the afternoon. But again, we are not currently running any training programs due to Covid 19. We hope to bring the training programs back online in the fall.
At Kingha, offering training with a coffee theme also has implications for the wider interest in learning. For Kingha’s students, coffee presents a way to become aware of their potential, what one student refers to as an “awakening”. Andre Almeida, the farm’s head agronomist echoes this vision for the programming, commenting “That is what Kingha Estate cultivates: sowing a thirst for knowledge through stimulus.”
Across the Atlantic in the Mogian and Minas regions south of Brasilia are the FAL Coffee group of producers, a collection of farms where Ozone Coffee Roasters source from. In an April interview with FAL’s CEO, Humberto Florezi Filho, Ozone touched on the training programmes offered on the farms in Brazil. Despite the restrictions on travel and getting information from his farms in Minas, Florezi Filho shared some of his insights about building their training methodology.
You have 94 producers in the FAL family. How many individual farmers within this pyramid, roughly?
Our program is 100% small individual producers who work with their families. The livelihood of these people is completely sustained from planting.
The scoring system. Is this out of 100 points? Have you created your own scheme?
To facilitate the conversation with the importers we use the SCA scoring system.
The office and cupping lab and Santa Izabel. How central is this in terms of travel time for the 94 producers?
We have an office in the City of Pinhal (region of Mogiana) and another in Ouro Fino (Region of the South of Minas) in addition to the lab on the Santa Izabel farm. This means that the producer does not have to travel more than 30 minutes to visit us. I would like to remind you that Fazenda Santa Izabel is the model for this program. Now on account of COVID, our field technicians go to the properties to get the coffee samples, we have encouraged the producer to sell coffee from the comfort of their home.
Exchanging information. How do producers interact? Workshops, presentations, PDFs, images. What are the means of sharing knowledge?
It's a lot. Lectures, PDF, brochures. But what I and the producers like most are the field days on the Santa Izabel farm. There we do very practical training and the producers can already see the results on the farm. This is very exciting!
What are the hot topics for training? Pesticide use was mentioned in the Ozone interview. What other technical training can be given to increase the integrity of the product and the growing environment.
Post-harvest, maintenance of machines, handling of machines, effective ways to treat the soil, conservation of water springs, classification and tasting of coffee, labor laws, among others. Whenever there is any demand for training for a group of producers, we create something new.
Where do the farmers' children go to college? What do they tend to study?
They study everything, medicine, engineering, law, but the vast majority seek agronomy, which makes me happy! Because when the children study, they return to the small farms with more knowledge and with a more open mind, which makes everyone's life better! And the producing parents are very proud of it!
To learn more about the FAL Coffee and Kingha Coffee Company, visit falcafe.com.br and kinghacoffee.com respectively. A May 2020 conversation between Nordic Approach and Kingsley Griffin is also worth a watch - 32-minute video.