Since 2010 Jacob and Emily Parsons have been travelling to Uganda, East Africa to pioneer the construction of concrete water tanks in remote villages. Jacob also runs the New Lynn-based coffee company Mt Atkinson Coffee Roasters, so he always tacks on coffee research while in Uganda.
Uganda is a remarkable country but is still ranked very low on the human development index. One major issue they face is a high rate of infant child mortality - over ten times that of New Zealand. This is even higher in rural areas like Kanungu, a very remote sub-county in the west of Uganda bordering the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to the endangered mountain gorillas.
On their 2017 trip Jacob and Emily and their two young children travelled to Kanungu to meet with Gerald Mbabazi who runs a company called Gorilla Summit Coffee. Gerald and his team have a mission: to use their coffee business to transform their community. They are actively involved in initiatives such as:
· Maternity clinics in remote areas.
· Solar panels for coffee growers' houses.
· Funding education for children.
· Mosquito nets for coffee growers' families.
These practical initiatives raise the quality (and length) of life for over 1,800 coffee growers and their families. Gerald actively works with these growers using sustainable methods that result in better yields and higher quality coffee. As a result, Gorilla Summit achieved cupping* scores well into the speciality coffee range (85 and over), adding internationally recognised value. Quality of this level means premium prices can be paid, doubling the incomes of these otherwise vulnerable families.
*Cupping is the international practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee for quality.
Supporting the transformation of lives such as the families in Kanungu remains a core driver of Mt Atkinson coffee's vision. When Jacob met Gerald, a genuine friendship was born; on hearing his story and visiting the coffee growers in their homes, a partnership was created.
On that trip Jacob asked Gerald how they could best help, and his reply was simple: “Buy our coffee”. So they did. In December 2018 they landed their first container of coffee directly from these farmers. It was no easy mission to export from Uganda and import through New Zealand’s strict bio security standards.
But they did it!
For Jacob it’s a dream come true to be serving coffee that directly contributes to a community’s transformation. As he says, “When you buy a coffee it changes your day; when you buy a Mt Atkinson direct trade coffee it changes their day as well”.
Mt Atkinson coffee is supplied to several local cafes, including The Wardroom and The Tannery. It is also available to purchase online at www.mtatkinson.co.nz