Burundi may be the smallest among the five countries in the East African Community (EAC), but stands out as the giant in environmental conservation and management.
Farmers have been mobilised and taught about soil erosion control measures. Particularly, growing trees on hills and slopes. Large tracts of land in this largely hilly country have been cultivated. There are thousands of hectares of eucalyptus trees, bananas, coffee, maize and cassava.
Lots of lessons
Environmental experts from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were impressed by Burundi's success story. During a five-day visit under the auspices of the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP-II), the officials noted the environment conservation efforts, via mobilisation of communities, designing programmes and effectively implementing them.
Agnes Tobterik, a director in Kenya's State Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said she was impressed by the greening of the mountain and hill tops with eucalyptus trees, grass-banding, construction of ridges/contours and terracing to control soil erosion.
"We have learnt a lot of lessons here, especially how the government and the people are addressing environmental challenges...... partly through good agricultural practices." Tobterik said at a press briefing in Gitega, central Burundi. She added that the regional exchange visit was an opportunity to learn about Burundi's implementation of environment and agricultural policies.
In order for farmers to produce good quality milk and minimise losses, they have to take into account that quality starts with hygiene of the cows, equipment, and farmers as well as at post-milking handling stage, among others. But many dairy farmers start to lose quality of milk right from the cow's udder.
Poor post-milking handling does not only affect the farmers' revenue but also the revenue of the processors who buy the milk.
To prevent such losses, various stakeholders in the dairy sector, who include Ruhiira Millennium Villages Project (RMVP), Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) and Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU) are involved in educating dairy farmers on animal health, feeding, milking plus handling of milk and its products.
At a recent training held at Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research Institute (Mbarara Zardi), the district veterinary officer, Dr William Mwebembezi, observed that milk quality is wanting because many farmers do not have knowledge about milk handling.
Speaking to the trainees, who were dairy farmers from Kabuyanda and Nyakitunda sub-counties, he noted that it is the duty of veterinary staff to aid farmers with information.
Some of the mistakes dairy farmers make are avoidable provided they have the right information.
The factors to take into consideration include dirty udders and teats, milk storage containers, milking buckets, personal hygiene of the farmer who is milking, dirty hands and animals putting dirt in the milk while milking and timely delivery to bulking centres. Others include poor milking parlours, using poor milk storage containers and contaminated animal feeds.
This Christmas season, coffee farmers are smiling all the way to the bank, following a sharp increase in the price of coffee on the local market. According to a New Vision survey, the prices of coffee beans have increased by about sh500 per kg in the last one month.
Coffee dealers across the country say raw and dry coffee beans still in husks, locally known as Kiboko, fetch an average of sh1,000 and sh2,500, respectively. In October, the prices of the same type of coffee went for sh700 and sh1,800, respectively. The dry coffee beans locally known as Kase go for sh4,300 per kg. An official at Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), said the coffee prices on the global market had also slightly gone up because of the reduction in exportation by the lead producer, Vietnam.
The National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) is working out a strategy to enhance financial benefits from farming by eliminating middlemen.
NUCAFE is advocating for the Farmer Ownership Model in order to increase farmers' market value share by holding onto their coffee, taking charge of roles like upgrading quality and value before selling it, a case that seeks to help them save money lost to middlemen.
According to the body executive director Joseph Nkandu, the model being promoted is one of the current best options that can uplift coffee farmers since is about rooting for ways of increased productivity.
President Museveni has directed district officials to arrest traders who buy wet coffee beans from farmers in rural areas. Mr Museveni, who blamed the coffee dealers for a reduction in the quality of coffee exported from Uganda, gave the directive on Thursday during the 90th International Cooperative anniversary celebrations at Kabwohe playground in Sheema District.
"I don't want to hear that people are buying fresh coffee from farmers any more. The minister of trade and industry should get closer to Uganda Coffee Development Authority and the Bureau of Standards to make sure that no businessman gets involved in this," Mr Museveni said.
In what has now become a familiar song, the President blamed past leaders for failing to put in place and check the control chain of coffee trade from the farm to the market.