From the beautiful Sipi Hills of Kapchorwa District in the East, to the breezy Kazo Plains of Kiruhura District in the West; a strong wind of change is blowing smiles of optimism on thousands of smallholder coffee farmers in Uganda.

Earlier this month, Solidaridad, and its consortium of partners: Kawacom Uganda Ltd, Kaaro Agric Producers Ltd, and the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), officially launched the Practice for Change Coffee Project in Uganda to improve coffee productivity, quality, and increase household incomes.

This project is focussed on Eastern and Western Uganda, where Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties are grown. Over 3,500 farmers from the East and 2,000 farmers from the West will be supported.

Already through this project, landmark transformations in the Ugandan coffee sector have occured. Most notably, the government ratified the Ugandan national coffee law on June 21 2018. The law will ensure the quality of coffee being produced meets international coffee market standards. The law will also regulate players along the coffee value chain to ensure that they are registered for ease of traceability as well as uphold best practice in coffee farming.

Partnering to Effect the Change that Matters

Speaking during the official launch of the Practice for Change Coffee project at Sipi in Kapchorwa district, Mr. Karugu Macharia, Managing Director of Solidaridad East & Central Africa commended government efforts aimed at improving the Uganda coffee sector. Karugu observed that the national target of exporting 20 million bags (60kg) of coffee by the year 2025 is achievable because the country has vast arable lands and hardworking farmers.

He said that this newly launched partnership is committed to empowering smallholder farmers by building their capacity in governance and financial management. Through this project, farmers will be encouraged to organize themselves in groups and cooperatives through which they can aggregate their produce and gain greater bargaining power over their produce.

Enabling Policy Environment to Spur Growth of Uganda’s Coffee Sector

Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira – Managing Director of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) said that in a bid to attain the national coffee export target of 20 million bags by 2025, the government of Uganda has increased agriculture research funding. He said it is now focussing on coffee varieties that are water-efficient, drought-resilient, pest-resistant and high-yielding. The government, through UCDA, will revamp and strengthen coffee specific farmer-groups and cooperatives to increase production volumes.

Innovative Approach To Boost Coffee Productivity and Profits

Speaking during the project launch at Kazo in Kiruhura district of Western Uganda, Ms. Catherine Maina – the Practice for Change Coffee Project Manager noted that despite good fortunes in coffee, cooperatives are still facing many challenges due to irregular pricing on international platforms. She emphasised the project’s commitment to strengthen existing producer organizations, cooperative unions and farmer groups, and to transform them into formidable enterprises.

Maina said that through the project partnership, farmers will benefit from smart subsidy farm inputs, links to well-paying markets, and recertification of coffee-farmer groups, adding that  for as much as the project emphasizes good farming practices, climate change is a challenge that may slow the project’s gains.

To overcome the climate variation challenge, Maina said that farmers will undergo trainings and benefit from extension services that offer strategic practical approaches to mitigate climate change effects, mainly through the promotion of good farming practices such as zero grazing, crop diversification, use of farming inputs and practices that lead to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Solidaridad will conduct soil analyses to ensure the predominant Robusta coffee grown in western Uganda is planted under the right conditions to improve coffee yields. In addition, ICT tools will be used to improve coffee farming practices, and ensure farmers in the region have access to valuable information in real-time.

Reprieve for Coffee Farmers in Western Uganda

The project has elicited a lot of support from the government of Uganda. Addressing coffee farmers at Kazo in Kiruhura district,  Mr. Jessy Daawa, the Managing Director of Kaaro Agric Producers Ltd, informed coffee farmers that the government of Uganda has extended 60% funding towards the establishment of a wet & dry processing Robusta coffee factory, to be launched in August 2018.

Once the factory becomes fully operational, it will cover the entire coffee value chain to ensure that farmers export a finished product. Through the establishment of the wet & dry processing factory in Kazo, the area’s structural infrastructure will improve, jobs will be created, production costs will be lowered and farmers’ incomes will increase. Daawa added that through this strong partnership, coffee aggregation, marketing and certification of farmers within their respective cooperatives will be adequately addressed.

The Ugandan Coffee Sector

Uganda is currently the second largest coffee exporter in the Eastern Africa region (after Ethiopia), and is ranked eighth globally. Over the past four years, coffee has emerged as Uganda’s most valuable export commodity that  contributes towards 15.5% of the country’s total value of exports.

After conquering the East African market, and with demand hitting an all time high in Europe and the United States, Uganda is steadily venturing into the Middle East, Asia, China, and other emerging markets.

Read Solidaridad's Coffee Barometer Report here