Smallholder farmers, especially youths and women engaged in the coffee subsector, are set to benefit from a Shs 1.3bn USAID-funded initiative that aims at increasing the country’s coffee production.
Channeled through the US government’s Feed the Future Initiative, and implemented by the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farmer Enterprises (Nucafe), the two year project will popularise and disseminate information about the new national coffee policy.
The project intends to increase coffee productivity for 20,000 smallholder farmers in 22 coffee growing districts. Coffee experts say the national
policy, which government adopted last year, could spark a revival of coffee, which at one point was Uganda’s main cash crop and biggest forex earner.
However, coffee production continues to fall as a result of a cocktail of problems, ranging from pest attacks and stiff competition from other coffee producing countries. The policy aims at supporting and strengthening coffee farmer organisations to participate in all the stages of the coffee value chain, streamlining and strengthening existing coffee laws and regulations, and ensuring adherence to the recommended quality standards.
It also seeks to promote domestic consumption of coffee, which at less than five per cent of the total volume of coffee produced, is still depressingly
low. Speaking at the inception of the project last week at Mosa courts in Kampala, the mission director of USAID, Leslie Reed, noted that it was crucial that the policy is well implemented.
Reed highlighted the failure to involve beneficiaries such as women and youths, who are the main proponents in coffee production activities, as one of
the factors behind the sluggish growth of the coffee sector.
According to Joseph Nkandu, the executive director of Nucafe, they will engage more than 700,000 small-scale farmers in creating awareness about the
policy, train them on quality and disease control, while availing them with market information. Farmers will also be encouraged to embrace major interventions such as irrigation, post-harvest handling standards, among others.
State Minister for Agriculture Vincent Ssempijja said coffee exports had stuck at a paltry three million bags in recent years. Ssempijja stated government’s
commitments, which include President Museveni’s directive to have 100 million coffee seedlings planted in the next three years, to raise production to at least 10 million bags.
Mathias Kasamba, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on coffee agenda, assured stakeholders that his lobby in the House had gained momentum in
regard to enacting the coffee law, which will stipulates punitive actions for counterfeit inputs that derailed coffee production, among others.
Source : The Observer