By Claude Muhi
The government of Uganda through the Presidential directive set targets to accelerate coffee exports from 3.5 million bags to 20 million bags per year by 2025.
In pursuit of this strategic goal, a range of activities have been set in motion including strengthened engagements and collaborations with key stakeholders across the value chain. These stakeholders include the coffee farmers, processors among others.
In this regard, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) board members have been traversing the country to monitor and evaluate key stakeholders on how to improve the coffee industry.
Between 21st-25th June 2020, UCDA board members and management combed South Western Uganda to engage and interact with a range of stakeholders in the region to have a fully informed SWOT analysis that will help provide proper insight during strategic planning and decision making as the coffee authority works towards hitting the 20 million presidential target for 2025 referred to as The Coffee Roadmap.
UCDA- established by an Act of Parliament 1991 and amended in 1994, Cap. 325 under the laws of the Republic of Uganda- is a public authority mandated to promote and oversee the coffee industry by supporting research, promoting production, controlling the quality and improving the marketing of coffee in order to optimize foreign exchange earnings for the country, and payments to the farmers.
The UCDA Board of Directors on the other hand is responsible for overseeing the conduct of business and supervising Management, which is responsible for the day – to – day operations. The Board’s objective is to preserve UCDA’s institutional competitiveness as well as ensuring that the Authority operates in a reliable and safe manner.
During the monitoring and evaluation tour of South Western Uganda, the team also aimed at verifying reported progress for the past financial year, assess progress of activities implemented by UCDA regarding coffee production and productivity in the region, identify challenges affecting activities along the coffee value chain as well as propose solutions to the coffee industry in the region.
The team- led by Board chairman Mr. Perez Bukumunhe- visited various farmers and other stakeholders in Bushenyi, Sheema, Mbarara, Ibanda and Kiruhura districts.
The members also held a radio talk show on Radio West which focused on coffee production, processing, quality assurance and exports.
The team further made a courtesy call on Bushenyi (UCDA) offices and the district local council headquarters before commencing on engagements with various stakeholders.
Monitoring, Evaluation of Stakeholders
The stakeholders visited included farmers, processors, coffee nurseries and farmer groups. The visited stakeholders were selected on the basis of size, technologies/methods used in the coffee value chain. They include; irrigation and GAP methods, post- harvest handling among others.
The type of coffee grown, coffee group membership statuses were also considered in choice of who to visit for monitoring and evaluation. Here they are;
Ismail Zavuga (farmer)
First stop was at Mr. Ismail Zavuga, a coffee lead farmer located in Kiyaga village, Bumbaire Sub County in Bushenyi district.
Zavuga’s coffee plantation is a good example of coffee rehabilitation. He is a beneficiary of the Core Project and in 2016, he had abandoned the coffee plantation and had plans of cutting it down due to low yields. With UCDA guidance and partnership, he remodeled the farm and stumped the old coffee trees, mulched and pruned and now harvests 5kgs of kiboko per tree.
In agriculture, Stumping is a standing tree trunk from which the upper part and branches have been cut off. He has also stumped his other farms of coffee and in due process, the neighbors have also adopted the stumping practice.
Zavuga was trained by UCDA to demonstrate to other farmers in his area. So far there are 28 farmers under his guidance.
Zavuga is generally doing well on his coffee plantations that sit on 1.5 acres.
Board member Prof. Julius Y.K. Zake advised the farmer to continue using mulching as one way of helping in moisture retention in the soil. He was also advised to use cow dung for manure.
Zavuga thanked UCDA for the partnership that saved his coffee plantation. However he decried the challenge of sustainability and wilt disease that causes his trees to limp.
Greater Bushenyi Coffee Hub
The team visited the Greater Bushenyi Coffee Hub that comprises of 1500 members from Kagango, Kyangenyi, Kakanzu and Nyabubare. The hub is headed by Mr. Bangirana.
Mr. Bangirana thanked UCDA for assisting in the availability of fertilizers. He appealed to UCDA that given the position of the coffee industry in the country’s economy, he needed a coffee processing plant to improve on quality inorder to get the best price.
“The plight of the rural coffee farmer is the inability to mobilize the necessary funds,” Mr. Bangirana said.
He further decried the high interest rates bank and cooperatives are giving on production loans.
He added: “Each month, banks charge 2% interest on loans meaning we pay 24% per annum. This is very high, it’s pushing us out of farming. Banks should not only assist us the farmers in providing loans, but let them reduce on their interests.”
Bangirana further asked UCDA for protection of small cooperatives and companies since big players like Kyagalanyi, Ugacof take all the money abroad because of capacity. He also wants UCDA to help in production and marketing.
The UCDA MD Dr. Niyibigira thanked Bangirana for his continued implementation of President Yoweri Museveni’s coffee program of 2017. He assured Bangirana and the farmers of continued support through availability of fertilizers, pestcides and other value additives to enable farmers do better and improve yields.
“The purpose of this visit is to assess and monitor agronomic practices, evaluate challenges and look into value addition,” Dr. Niyibigira told Mr. Bangirana and his group.
Fred Mugabi (Farmer)
Mr. Mugabi’s 13 acre farm is located in Kanyeganyegye village in Masheruka Town Council in Sheema district.
The farmer has set up an irrigation scheme worth shs31 million. His sprinklers can flash water up to a radius of 10 metres. The irrigation scheme covers the whole coffee plantation.
Mr. Mugabi informed the team that his biggest challenge was mulching.
The farmer was tipped on how to enrich the soil through cheaper methods that can maximize yields. He was advised against the use of dangerous pesticides like glycosuphate which kills quality of coffee. He was encouraged to use organic methods like red pepper to kills pests.
He was further advised to join various UCDA programs to improve on various aspects. Mugabi was generally applauded for the good agropractices.
Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU)
ACPCU has a state of the art coffee factory located in Kigimbi cell, Kabwohe Ward, Sheema Municipality along the Mbarara-Ishaka Road. The factory processes and grades coffee for export. It is a strong cooperative union that covers 4 districts; Sheema, Bushenyi, Mitooma, Ntungamo, Buhweju and Rubirizi.
The Union has grown to cover 25 primary cooperative societies with about 9150 members.
Farmer groups produce Robusta and Arabica coffee and most of the farmers are both fair-trade and organic certified.
ACPU offer the following services;
-Processes and grades members’ coffee for export, Marketing members’ coffee, Timely supervision of all member societies in book keeping and management issues,
Yorokamu Kamukama ((Farmer)
The farm is located in Orutoma village, Kitura Sub-County in Kiruhura district. He is a seed producer, nursery operator and has 40 acres of coffee plantation in a semi –arid area. He has been passionate about coffee since 1999.
His target is 50 acres in the next few years. He is practicing mulching and fertilizer application. He has previously been voted the best coffee farmer in south western Uganda.
He produces an average of 8kgs (kiboko) per tree. He as well owns a factory processing plant and belongs to a farmer group called Kitura Coffee Growers and Processors that consists of 260 members.
Kamukama thanked UCDA for a job well done for the farmers. He however called upon the coffee governing body to continue providing good market for the farmer.
He asked for seedlings and more fertilizers to enable him expand. So far, UCDA has availed him with 160 sacks of fertilizers. He was advised on training plants (bending to stimulate more stems).
Kamukama was encouraged to practice regular weeding, pruning and desuckering, and fertilizer application to boost the level of nitrogen as a first line of defence against diseases and pests.
Hon. Alfred Rwabulindoli (Farmer)
Area Member of Parliament Hon. Alfred Rwabulindoli has an impressive 300 acres of coffee in Rushaha village, Bisheshe Sub County in Ibanda district. He is the MP Ibanda Municipality and a member of the Agricultural Technical Committee of Parliament.
Hon. Rwabulindoli received 80, 000 coffee seedlings from UCDA three years ago and these helped him establish the coffee farm with plans of further expansion. He asked for a further 40, 000 to aid his expansion plans.
The farm has an earth dam with a yield of 5000 cm of water that’s pumped uphill in two big reservoirs of each 10, 000 litres. Rwabulindoli is in the process of establishing a wet processing plant and construction work is ongoing.
Some of his challenges include; degraded soil, lack of mulching materials, wilt, shortage of fertilizers and seedlings among others. He also urged UCDA to avail better herbicides for farmers.
His partner Mr. Barnabas Taremwa decried the cost of money regarding the overall investment. “This is a capital intensive venture, we need a hand. Machinery alone is absolutely expensive,” Mr. Taremwa said.
The wet processing plant needs a mind blowing $1 million dollars (Uganda Shs3.6 billion).
UCDA Board chair, Mr. Bukumunhe noted the challenges faced by these large scale farmers and promised to work hand in hand where possible to realize the investment.
Joseph Niwagira (CWDr mother garden/coffee nursery)
Mr. Niwagira’s garden is located in Karama village, Rwakishankizi parish, Nshungyenzi Sub County in Mbarara district.
The farmer has expanded the mother garden from cuttings that were provided to him by UCDA to more than 45 bushes and he’s constructing a new shade to harbor 90,000 seedlings from the new mother garden. He deals in coffee resistant varieties (CWDr) as well as coffee for production through application of good agronomical practices.
He distributed 200, 000 CWDR seedlings in the current season. He has inter-cropped the new mother bushes with bananas and he says the coffee is growing well, a development clear on the eye.
Niwagira is one of the many beneficiaries from the distribution of UCDA input which includes shade nets, metallic poles, wheel barrows, pangas and other planting materials.
His garden has an earth dam storage reservoir measuring 12×30 feet with 1000 cubic liters of water, a key component of coffee growing.
Like many other farmers, Niwagira decried the problem of fake inputs such as fertilizers, chemicals saturated all over the market.
He also faces a challenge of labour. “There’s so much laissez fare attitude from my workers. Some even run away after I have invested a lot in their training in Kawanda,” he said.
Niwagira also faces a challenge of lack of market for his seedlings. He has around 20,000 seedlings ready for sale but there are no buyers.
Further, the recent decision by UCDA to scale down has affected his operations. He also faces challenges with disposal of plastics (buveera), lack of proper guidelines on best agropractices and like other farmes, fake inputs on the market.
UCDA board chairman, Mr. Bukumunhe advised Niwagira against over expansion since there’s limited market, and since over expansion would require splitting of energies to cater for the different mother gardens. The chairman further tasked his team to work very closely with Niwagira and ensure his challenges are well sorted.
Mr. Bukumunhe recommended that a team from UCDA- led by soil professor Zake- would revisit the farmer for further engagement and review.
He further advised the farmer against some chemicals and promised better dissemination of data. Coffee extension officers were tasked with creating more awareness on need to carry out soil testing as a means of determining the most limiting nutrients as a basis of applying location specific fertilizers.
Martin Byamugisha (Farmer)
Passionate Byamugisha’s farm is located in Rwempogo village, Kamushoko, Bubare sub-county in Mbarara district.
The farm has a modern irrigation system with sprinklers able to deliver water to a radius of 50 metres. Water is drilled from an earth dam measuring 100x50feet wide and 14ft deep.
The farm covers an acreage of 20 acres with productivity of 8kgs (kiboko) per tree. Irrigation has enabled Byamugisha harvest good quality cherries.
“The coffee plants would grow, flower and fruit but did not produce good quality cherries until we introduced a relatively sustainable water source and develop and irrigation system to meet the coffee water requirements and improve productivity,” Byamugisha says.
In 2017, Byamugisha invested in exaction of a Valley Tank and establishment of an irrigation network covering the existing coffee shamba. This has so far provided relief of depending on rain-fed agriculture.
And since then, the farm has progressively registered increase in production. As a result there has been increase in employment of the locals. Byamugisha’s irrigation system has also worked a learning centre and model for other farmers.
However all this hasn’t come on a silver platter. There have been high costs for irrigation inputs like 160 litres of diesel needed per week to pump the sprinklers. There are also high costs of solar pumps.
Despite the investment of the sleek production process to ensure good quality, the cost of coffee remains average irrespective of quality. Byamugisha urged UCDA to motivate farmers into production of quality such that the price of coffee is determined according to quality.
In all, Mr. Byamugisha applauded UCDA for choosing to visit his farm in this evaluation and monitoring engagement by the board.