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Coffee and COVID-19 – life under lockdown in Uganda. 

Elen Jones is a long standing member of the fair trade movement, and she currently manages the Climate Change Coffee Project and volunteers for Eglwys Mynydd Seion, Casnewydd/Newport.

Life before lockdown.

Jenipher is a coffee farmer from the Mbale region of eastern Uganda. She’s also the chairperson of her primary coffee co-operative and vice-chair of the main society; Mount Elgon Agroforestry Community Co-operative Enterprise (MEACCE). MEACCE is responsible for exporting the farmers’ coffee around the world.

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In February, during Fairtrade Fortnight, Jenipher was in Wales as part of project implemented by Eglwys Mynydd Seion, Casnewydd/ Newport, funded by the Welsh Government Wales and Africa Grant Scheme and supported by Fair Trade Wales, Julian Rosser, Co-operative Pioneer, Ffion Storer Jones and the wider fair trade and farmer communities.

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Jenipher was also in Wales to celebrate the commitment made by Eluned Morgan, Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language to support the 3,000 coffee farmers on Mt Elgon by importing six thousand kilograms of their coffee to Wales. The aim of the project, that is managed by Fair Do’s Siopa Teg is to provide the people of Wales with the opportunity to buy Jenipher’s coffee and support the farmers to trade fairly and respond to the climate emergency. If you’d like to be kept up to date on this project, you can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

If only we had known back then how lucky we were to have the fair trade community come together in person. Campaigners, businesses, supporters, and students from around Wales were able to hear Jenipher’s story, face to face. That now seems like such an impossible task. Maybe had we known back then what was to come, we could have appreciated it that little bit more. With her contagious smile and her uplifting stories of how fair trade has empowered her and her fellow women coffee farmers, I feel a sense of hiraeth for those days with Jenipher.

Life under lockdown. 

The first case of Covid-19 in Uganda was recorded in March, and the country entered lockdown in early April. Since, there have been fortnightly reviews of the situation – with the next one expected in June. There are currently two hundred and sixty known cases, luckily none in the Mbale region. Farmers are desperate to keep it this way, but the coffee that was picked at the end of the last harvest in December/ January remains on the mountain and they’re prohibited from travelling to gather it for processing under the current lockdown rules.

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Farmers are fearful. They are not allowed to travel freely around the mountain to source food and water, and as this is the time when there is the least amount of food available, times are exceptionally hard. The expert hand-sorters who are seasonal workers, and rely on this part of the coffee chain to feed their family at this time, have no coffee to sort. And whilst they may have some spare eggs, vegetables or matoke to trade, the threat of soldiers prohibiting them from doing so is too much for them.

Jenipher told me “We are very scared. The women farmers, who are widowed and are sole-income are struggling to support their families”.

We need support to buy PPE, basic food, soap and sanitiser for handwashing. And pray for us”.

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But Jenipher is hopeful for the future, when the lockdown will be lifted and they can trade freely, fairly and safely again, “I am so grateful that all the people I met in Wales are thinking of us and that they care. Thank you and see you again in Fairtrade Fortnight”.

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While MEACCE’s coffee is unable to leave Uganda, if you would like to support Jenipher and her community to be able to access PPE, basic food and respond to the Covid-19 crisis, you can do so here.

Coffi a COVID-19 – bywyd dan glo yn Uganda.

Llun o Elen Jones, Ffion Storer Jones a Jenipher Wetaka Sambazi yn gwenu

Mae Elen Jones yn aelod hirsefydlog o’r mudiad masnach deg, ac ar hyn o bryd mae’n rheoli’r Prosiect Coffi Newid Hinsawdd ac yn gwirfoddoli i Eglwys Mynydd Seion, Casnewydd .

Bywyd cyn cloi i lawr.

Mae Jenipher yn ffermwr coffi o ranbarth Mbale yn nwyrain Uganda. Mae hi hefyd yn gadeirydd ei chydweithfa goffi gynradd ac yn is-gadeirydd y brif gymdeithas; Menter Cydweithredol Gymunedol Mount Elgon Agroforestry (MEACCE). Mae MEACCE yn gyfrifol am allforio coffi’r ffermwyr ledled y byd.

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Ym mis Chwefror, yn ystod Pythefnos Masnach Deg, roedd Jenipher yng Nghymru fel rhan o brosiect a weithredwyd gan Eglwys Mynydd Seion, Casnewydd, a ariannwyd gan Gynllun Grantiau Cymru ac Affrica Llywodraeth Cymru ac a gefnogwyd gan Cymru Masnach Deg, Ffion Storer Jones, Julian Rosser, Arloeswr Y Co-operative, a’r cymunedau masnach deg a ffermwyr ehangach.

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Roedd Jenipher hefyd yng Nghymru i ddathlu’r ymrwymiad a wnaed gan Eluned Morgan, y Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol i gefnogi’r 3,000 o ffermwyr coffi Mt Elgon trwy fewnforio chwe mil cilogram o’u coffi i Gymru. Nod y prosiect, a reolir gan Fair Do’s Siopa Teg yw rhoi cyfle i bobl Cymru brynu coffi Jenipher a chefnogi’r ffermwyr i fasnachu’n deg ac ymateb i’r argyfwng hinsawdd. Os hoffech chi gael y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am y prosiect hwn, gallwch chi gofrestru i dderbyn y cylchlythyr yma.

Pe baem ond wedi gwybod bryd hynny pa mor lwcus oeddem i gael y gymuned masnach deg i ddod at ei gilydd yn y cnawd. Roedd ymgyrchwyr, busnesau, cefnogwyr, a myfyrwyr o bob rhan o Gymru yn gallu clywed stori Jenipher, wyneb yn wyneb. Mae hynny bellach yn ymddangos yn dasg mor amhosibl. Efallai pe byddem wedi gwybod yn ôl bryd hynny beth oedd i ddod, gallem fod wedi ei werthfawrogi ychydig bach yn fwy. Gyda’i gwên heintus a’i straeon oedd yn codi calon am sut mae masnach deg wedi ei grymuso hi a’i chyd-ffermwyr, rwy’n teimlo ymdeimlad o hiraeth am y dyddiau hynny gyda Jenipher.

Bywyd o dan glo.

Cofnodwyd achos cyntaf Covid-19 yn Uganda ym mis Mawrth a’r wlad yn cychwyn mynd dan glo ddechrau mis Ebrill. Ers hynny, bu adolygiadau bob pythefnos o’r sefyllfa – a disgwylir y nesaf ym mis Mehefin. Ar hyn o bryd mae dau gant a thrigain o achosion hysbys, wrth lwc dim un yn rhanbarth Mbale. Mae ffermwyr yn ysu am ei gadw fel hyn, ond mae’r coffi a blannwyd ar ddiwedd y cynhaeaf diwethaf ym mis Rhagfyr / Ionawr yn aros ar y mynydd ac maent wedi’u gwahardd rhag teithio i’w gasglu i’w brosesu o dan y rheolau cloi.

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Mae ffermwyr yn ofni. Ni chaniateir iddynt deithio’n rhydd o amgylch y mynydd i ddod o hyd i fwyd a dŵr, a chan mai dyma’r amser pan fo’r swm lleiaf o fwyd ar gael, mae’r amseroedd yn eithriadol o galed. Nid oes gan y didolwyr llaw arbenigol sy’n weithwyr tymhorol, ac sy’n dibynnu ar y rhan hon o’r gadwyn goffi i fwydo eu teulu ar yr adeg hon, goffi i’w ddidoli. Ac er y gallai fod ganddyn nhw wyau, llysiau neu bigau sbâr i’w masnachu, mae’r bygythiad i filwyr eu gwahardd rhag gwneud hynny yn ormod iddyn nhw.

Dywedodd Jenipher wrthyf “Mae ofn mawr arnom. Mae’r menywod sy’n ffermwyr, sy’n weddw ac ar incwm sengl yn ei chael hi’n anodd cefnogi eu teuluoedd ”.

“Mae angen cefnogaeth arnom i brynu PPE, bwyd sylfaenol, sebon a glanweithydd ar gyfer golchi dwylo. A gweddïwch droson ni ”.

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Ond mae Jenipher yn obeithiol ar gyfer y dyfodol, pan fydd y cloi yn cael ei godi ac y gallant fasnachu’n rhydd, yn deg ac yn ddiogel eto, “Rwyf mor ddiolchgar bod yr holl bobl y cyfarfûm â hwy yng Nghymru yn meddwl amdanom a’u bod yn poeni. Diolch i chi a fe’ch gwelwn ni chi eto yn ystod Pythefnos Masnach Deg ”.

Er nad yw coffi MEACCE yn gallu gadael Uganda ar hyn o bryd, os hoffech chi gefnogi Jenipher a’i chymuned i allu cael hyd i PPE, bwyd sylfaenol ac ymateb i argyfwng Covid-19, gallwch wneud hynny yma.