How Kua Coffee built a connection between farmer and consumer
1 December 2021 at 2:44 pm
“I think that often in impact organisations people are the subjects of photos rather than participants in the processes of capturing images.”
When the social enterprise coffee company Kua couldn’t visit their Ugandan growers over the pandemic, they did the next best thing and sent them cameras so they could connect through pictures.
The idea for Kua’s CameraSwap project started to take shape during the numerous lockdowns and border closures over the past 18 months.
The Kua team generally travel to Uganda’s Mount Elgon every year to meet with the Zukuka Bora cooperative, the farmers who grow and pick Kua Coffee.
Brianna Kerr, Kua’s head of impact, told Pro Bono News that the aim of the annual trip is to continue building on the deep relationships they have with farmers, to collect images and to hear first-hand about what’s happening on the mountain.
The Kua team like to talk to the farmers face-to-face particularly about any difficulties brought on because of climate change — 100 per cent of Kua’s profits are reinvested into climate change and resilience-building activities in the Mount Elgon region.
“COVID-19 presented us with some travel challenges, which had us question a lot of our existing practices and whether they were 100 per cent necessary. Particularly when it comes to travelling for the purpose of capturing images,” Kerr says.
“We realised that our farmers could tell their own stories, which might sound a little bit naive, but I think lots of impact organisations rely on imagery of the people they work with.”
This year a trip to Mount Elgon was off the cards due to travel restrictions and so, inspired by a group that had done a similar project on the mountain, Kua decided to send the farmers film cameras instead.
“We asked farmers to take photos of what their life was like and what it looked like to harvest the coffee from their perspective,” explains Kerr.
“And at the same time, we sent cameras out to our coffee drinkers here in Australia to document their experience of consuming that same product.”
Once the farmers had finished their camera film, the heads of the Zukuka Bora cooperative sent the cameras back to Australia and Kua published them on the CameraSwap website. Sending a link back to Uganda for the farmers to see their images.
The project has been such a success that Kua has committed to capturing any further imagery this way, and the next batch of cameras are about to head off to Uganda to capture the harvest.
Kerr says that for Kua, the CameraSwap project was all about connection.
“It was all about handing the camera over and allowing people to tell their own stories. I think that often in impact organisations people are the subjects of photos rather than participants in the processes of capturing images,” Kerr says.
“And so this project was also about correcting the power imbalance that can often happen with photography in development [organisations].”
Find out more about CameraSwap here