Bird Friendly Certification Initiative

RSTC: Building Sustainability 

Builds sustainability: Our definition of this is a focus on the specific conditions where people live, the way raw materials are produced and used, and for systematic investment in health, well being and education

The Rwenzori region is a place of outstanding natural beauty and natural resources and sustainable production needs to become the focus of all policy and business interventions.

Target 1. Carbon Neutral Operations.

The Carbon Neutral Certification achieved in 2020 – the first in Uganda – will be sustained, with attention to carbon footprint and emissions management in the design and construction of the new RSTC premises, and the expansion and monitoring of carbon emissions in all operations, production and shipping practices. RSTC will seek opportunities and new investment in formal offset partnerships as part of Tier 2 and 3 supply chain monitoring of major customers. Grant funding and collaboration with government and others will be sought for training, capacity development.

Bird friendly coffee and cocoa may link us to better practices affirmed by new types of committed, caring customers and be part of addressing the biggest issues around: global warming and carbon offsets.

RSTC is pioneering new levels of assurance on climate and conservation: – first in its own operations. RSTC is the only social enterprise in Uganda to have achieved UN status Carbon Neutral Operations and has gained Carbon Neutral Certification through RSTC passing the UN Carbon Neutral criteria.

To become a signatory to the United Nations Climate Neutral Now Initiative, the RSTC has calculated and disclosed its own carbon footprint, including international air travel. The technical support of One Carbon World, has helped the RSTC to offset its current emissions and identify the areas it will to continue to measure, reduce and balance in future.

Target 2. Good Agricultural and Raw Materials Practices.

The RSTC will continue its emphasis in its work with all commodity co-operatives and the sustainability of the vital inputs sourced for hand-made craft production.

Target 3.  Bird Friendly Cocoa and Coffee.

The RSTC will build a coalition which supports the definition and application of bird friendly production standards in the activities of all of the co-operatives it represents through to certification of coffee and cocoa offered as bird friendly. The expediting of organic certification by all cooperatives will be pursued.

Source: RSTC Strategy Statement 2020

Our partners

Mountains of the Moon University
One Carbon World, Launchpad to Carbon Neutral

Children Conservationists Programme

Origins of the Bird Friendly Certification initiative


The Bird Friendly Certification initiative E. Africa has been started here at the Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Centre (RSTC), Uganda to look at the feasibility of attaining Bird Friendly Certification for local, cooperative-grown coffee against criteria set by the Smithsonian. Our chosen local cooperatives are located within the Bundibugyo region the foothills and mountains which lead to the Semeliki National Park run by UWA and visited by numerous tour groups from its stunning scenery and wealth of bird species and other wildlife.

The Bird Friendly Certification Initiative started with a scoping paper in 2016 and was followed up with a 2018 Feasibility Study carried out by academics at the Mountains of the Moon (MoM) University.  Bird Friendly Certification initiative, E Africa feasibility study evaluated the ecosystem, flora, fauna, communities and most importantly the respective coffee and cocoa cooperative farmers’ agricultural practices to consider if Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certification criteria could be implemented and maintained along with other complimenting programs of ecotourism and Eco-technology including Solar energy and a bio-fuel alternative to charcoal for local communities. These additional programs will play an integral part, along with attaining Smithsonian Bird Friendly certification, in terms of the community supporting the ecosystem and in return their ecologically rich-region, with increased bird populations, will offer the community Eco-tourism opportunities and financial rewards.

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Bird Friendly Certification


Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certification for coffee is the ‘Gold Standard’ of scientifically tested, rigorous ecologically-friendly agricultural criteria seen by Ornithologists and other ecologists to enhance bird populations. For Cocoa there isn’t yet an official Bird Friendly Certification standard however the Smithsonian are currently working on one. Our aim is to also attain Bird Friendly Certification for Cocoa once criteria are in place.

While much of the world’s coffee drives habitat loss, Bird Friendly habitat flies above the rest by ensuring a combination of foliage cover, tree height and biodiversity proven to provide quality habitat for birds and other wildlife. Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certification standards cover everything from canopy height to insect biodiversity to protect the wildlife that lives where coffee is grown. Bird Friendly coffees are also certified organic, meaning they are grown without pesticides, which is better for people and for the planet. In addition, Bird Friendly Certification growing conditions are said to bring a richer flavour to the coffee, or other harvest, as crops under tree canopy grows and matures at a slower rate.

Moving forward from a positive outcome from the feasibility study the initiative worked on initial outreach and collaboration with the Smithsonian on their Bird Friendly Certification and then broader outreach and collaboration with a range of partners.

The initiative has just its first, ground-breaking Bird Friendly Certification Forum on 25th February 2021 with collaboration from partners and supporters. This first Bird Friendly forum report is available here.

Why Bird Friendly matters..

  • Uganda, known as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of biodiversity with over 5,000 plant species, 1,000 bird species, 350 mammal species and countless insect and reptile species. These are threatened by: overexploitation of resources, abandonment of traditional knowledge and know-how, and pressures on natural habitat for agro-systems.
  • 3/4 of coffee in the world is not Bird friendly and there is as yet no fully adopted standard for cocoa, despite the pressing need for this.
  • In discussion of the Bird Friendly Feasibility study it has been highlighted that coffee and cocoa grown under shade has proved to have a long life span as compared to that grown under sun or light shade, hence longer term income benefits are possible. Bird Friendly certification allows farmers to negotiate a value above the market price. Unlike Fair Trade there is no minimum price set for BF certified coffee.
  • Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certified Coffee is well supported within the USA and Canada. More than 46 million Americans claim to be birdwatchers, and half of the population drink coffee. There is also growing demand in Japan and in the UK where there are roasters offering Bird-Friendly coffee certified by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, (RSPB) and others.

The Rwenzoris

Within the Rwenzoris the Bird Friendly initiative started as part of targeted Bundibudgyo Project 2019: Diversifying Livelihoods through Access to Premium Markets, Eco-Tourism and Eco-Technology in Bundibugyo.

Starting within the Bundibudgyo Rwenzori Mountains region RSTC is supporting two cooperatives; Buka Coffee and Bundikakemba Cocoa with plans for achieving Bird-Friendly certification. For the Buka Coffee cooperative RSTC it has been working with the Smithsonian on a pre –audit exercise and has contacted Control Union to discuss conducting a combined organic and Bird Friendly Certification external audit on the coffee cooperative.

The business idea is to marry good quality coffee grown within this mountains region by small-holder cooperative farmers with birders support in the USA, Japan and the UK to achieve Bird-Friendly certification and so increase potential income and protection of the environment and natural habit.

To boost the demand in tourism from birders, the cooperatives will also develop a business proposition to build an eco-tourism lodge which will offer an immersive experience to birders, who, as well as enjoying the spectacular beauty of the Rwenzori mountains and its over 400 species of birds, will also have the opportunity to see how Bird-Friendly coffee is grown, walk and climb the peaks, and even join in the coffee harvesting if they so wish.  The Eco-Tourism business will be run by young people from these communities who will be trained as eco-tourism guides in and around the national park.

Strategic Bird Friendly White Paper

As a follow-up to our ground-breaking partners forum we are starting work on a Strategic Bird Friendly White Paper for the Rwenzoris, Uganda. Please make contact to add your contribution

Report from our 1st Bird Friendly Forum

We’ve just held a ground-breaking, initial Bird Friendly Certification Initiative forum with partners including Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certification team and the Africa Coffee Academy. For a link to all presentations please click here

Please help us build our resources. We would welcome any input, information or links to related resources. Please email with any information or queries to