Kasese Region and Kihuhire Station
Nestled in the western part of the country, Kasese District boasts a captivating landscape, dominated by the majestic Rwenzoris in the northwest. This scenic region, blessed with elevated terrains and fertile soils, thrives as a hub for coffee production. At an elevation of 1300 meters above sea level (masl), the Kihuhire mill stands as a vital player in this coffee-rich enclave, overseeing operations with a dedicated team of around 85 staff members, a number that surges to 200 during the peak harvest periods.
A distinctive initiative at the Kihuhire station involves the creation of organic fertilizer crafted entirely from coffee pulp, a program with sustainability at its core. Currently, the recycled pulp returns to the farmers, blended with chicken feed to transform into on-farm fertiliser. In an environmentally conscious approach, farmers also integrate limestone and the "phragmites" weed to purify contaminated water.
The lush farms contributing their cherries to the washing station sprawl across altitudes ranging from 1300 to 2000 masl, with a majority nestled comfortably at 1500+ masl. These farms, typically adorned with 700-800 coffee trees on average, form the backbone of the station's thriving coffee production.
Navigating the vicinity around the washing station poses its own set of challenges, attributed to unpredictable rainfall, occasional flooding, limited road accessibility, and the undulating mountainous terrain. Evening sees most farmers delivering their cherished cherries, which then embark on nocturnal transportation.
At Agri Evolve, although the mill and washing station occupy separate spaces, they share a common roof, facilitating the seamless journey of coffee from the pinnacle to the base of the station. Cherries are received, depulped, and undergo fermentation in open concrete tanks. Kihuhire prides itself on housing two depulpers, with the first handling an impressive 5 tons of cherries per hour, and the second, adept at processing 2 tons per hour while meticulously sorting the floaters, which are subsequently accepted or rejected. A dual-piped water system is in place—one channeling freshwater for cleaning and washing, the other recycling water for floating and transportation. A 100-metre deep borehole/well ensures water sufficiency for mill operations.
For the natural process, coffee undergoes a leisurely sun-drying period of three weeks, while washed lots bask in the sun for 2-3 weeks. Drying timelines flex with the weather's disposition. During rainfall, mechanical dryers, operating at 40 degrees Celsius, come to the forefront. Additionally, the team engages in experimental drying techniques, exploring ovens during the initial stages of the process. Although this method contributes to consistency, its efficiency remains an open question, as cherries display less sensitivity to drying in their early phases.