At Storimarket, we go beyond fair trade because we think it's imperative that we know who grows our products. We ensure that we trade fairly, that our products are grown using natural farming techniques and organic inputs, and that the farmers get the best possible deal.
Part of what sets us apart from other food brands is that we know our product journey 'soil to shelf'. On a most recent visit to Nakatundu village in Uganda, our new Food and Farm Compliance Officer, Maurine Cheptoo met some of the KACE (Kangulumira Area Cooperative Enterprise) Pineapple Farmers.
Here, she tells her story!
To meet the KACE pineapple farmers, I embark on a five-hour journey which begins in Kenya, where I live. My destination is a pineapple cooperative situated in the Kayunga district, Kangulumira Sub County.
As I cross the River Nile, I am in awe of its natural wonder. I notice pineapple plantations hugging the River for miles around and instantly recognise that these lands depend on the mighty River.
My mission as Storimarket's Food and Farm Compliance Officer is to meet the farmers and learn about their methods of farming. To ensure that their crops meet our high food standards, I discover that the KACE cooperative was formed in 2003. They aim to supply high-quality agricultural products to the world. Their farmers predominantly grow pineapples but also coffee and maize, and all members have fully transitioned from conventional farming to organic farming. I also discover that the members are already certified and registered by the UCA (Uganda Cooperative Alliance).
When I arrive at the plantation, I notice farmers busy in the fields preparing the land. I am told that the main pineapple season begins in December and continues through to April, so this is the time for preparing the soil. All weeding, slashing and tilling, crop rotation, removal of old crops is all done by hand. The earth needs nourishment, and because they use no chemicals, the pineapple farmers use coffee husks and animal decomposed droppings as fertiliser. Mulching is done using bananas leaves and slashed grass from the field.
The farmers tell me that at the very early stages of the season, young pineapple plants are intercropped with beans, maize and bananas. This natural process helps to diversify and stabilise the soil, adds nutrients to the land, and reduces the need for chemicals. When the fruit is ripe, it' large and turns yellow, and the farmers can identify the perfect harvest time by the softness of the cuticle.
Speaking to the farmers, I gain a lot of insights, particularly about their traditional methods of farming and their determination to grow organically.
Kaggwa Miggo tells me, "I farm my pineapples organically because it doesn't interfere with the environment and soil's micro-organisms." And after twenty-five years of farming, Christine Napirye, cheerfully adds, "I love to produce pineapples which I know are healthy."
I am struck by the warmth and openness of the farmers and by the beautiful surroundings. As I depart, the gentle breeze of the River Nile brings with it the scent of other exotic fruits such as paw-paw, jackfruit and banana. My visit to Nakatundu village is gratifying and seeing how passionate these farmers are about organic farming emphasises how important the KACE cooperative is to these farmers. And at Storimarket, these are the type of farmers and organisations we want to trade with.