Coffee and Change

Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

By Don Miguel Ruiz from his best-selling book The Four Agreements.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Rugasira, I read about him even before coming to Uganda, his vision was to be the first Ugandan to sell coffee to overseas markets. Now that sounds like a pretty easy feat but given the state of infrastructure and development in the country believe me it is not as simple as it sounds! I was sitting listening to a presentation and he was seated just behind me, someone kicked my chair and I turned around and I was like, wait this is the coffee guy! I asked him are you the coffee guy? He laughed.

What intrigued me about his story was his philosophy of  trade, not aid, that transformed communities and that change was never an imposed solution, but a positive choice made by those whose lives would be most affected by it. The place Rugasira chose to base his coffee company, to start that story, the Rwenzori mountains – the Mountains of the Moon – looked a lot like a blank page. The lives of the 14,000 subsistence farmers who lived high above the town of Kasese, right on the war-torn border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had never been the stuff of written record. Their narratives were of survival rather than progress. Ambition meant getting through the next day and the next week, in thrall as they were to the suddenly shifting front lines of brutal cross-border conflict. Rugasira believed he could help to give the lives of those 14,000 farmers and their families a different shape. One that could take in measurable progress; that could see skills learned and retained in the community; that could reward consistent effort, introduce saving and planning and time horizons that included the real prospect of better lives for children and for grandchildren. The first step in rewriting those life stories would be to communicate an idea, Rugasira believed. So, aged 34, and after a career that had taken in event planning and business consultancy in Kampala, he went up into the mountains and started telling the farmers what he had in mind.

The rest is history! After many many hardships and challenges including losing everything he owned he has fulfilled his dream and by extension changed the life and the world he lives in, for me that is pure awesomeness, taking the good with the not so good and learning the lessons along the way!!



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