Kampala. For a long time Ugandans have been steered to believe that the coffee they grow is simply a cash crop. And with 80 per cent of the population involved in agriculture, coffee growing has been a mainstay and cash crop for most households in the country.
Corporate efforts at driving forward economic development in Uganda through greater private-sector investment and job creation activities were recognised by the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) which hosted the Investor of the Year (INOY) Awards 2015 gala and exhibition at the Hotel Africana in Kampala, Uganda on Friday the 24th of June 2016. The Awards were part of UIA’s celebrations to mark 25 years of existence and were held under the theme “25 years of facilitating investors” by recognising investors that have successfully implemented business development projects before the cut-off of June 2015.
National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) is opening up opportunities for university students through the Union’s internship placements.
The move is aimed at skilling youth in agribusiness and give them the knowhow required by private and public sector employers.
Executive director Joseph Nkandu explains that Nucafe takes on interns from different academic disciplines and universities to equip them with a set of skills targeted by players operating from different nodes of the agricultural value chain.
This is to help beneficiaries broaden their employability and innovativeness through this hands-on initiative.
“We target to impact the agriculture sector through generating a new breed of human capital comprising young and educated people for the future of our economy.”
Nkandu made the remarks during an induction, coaching and mentorship training for more than 50 interns from different universities across the country.
They will be allocated different roles within the countrywide management fabric of Nucafe; at the secretariat, processing facilities and member associations and hubs.
Beneficiaries are students in fields such as food science and technology, agro-processing, engineering, human resource management, statistics, business and economics.
For a very long time Uganda’s annual coffee production has stagnated at about three million 60kg-kilogram-bags. About 42 per cent of households are engaged in coffee production and coffee farming has been linked with the country’s poverty reduction efforts.
The government periodically donates seedlings to households willing to take up coffee farming as part of the campaign to get more people to grow the crop.
Coffee is the country’s third most important foreign exchange earner after tourism and remittances from Ugandans working abroad.
The national objective according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) is to increase production to six million bags in 2019/2020 and 15 million by 2039/2040.
“Most of our producers are small-scale farmers with hardly any capacity to purchase more land to grow more coffee,” says Joseph Nkandu, the executive director, National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe).
“To increase production, they will not only need to plant higher yielding varieties and apply better agronomic practices. They will also try innovative options like planting more trees on the same acreage of land.”
The common practice among Robusta coffee growers is to plant about 450 trees in an acre at the spacing of three metres by three metres between trees and between rows. Yet in Brazil, which is the world’s leading coffee producer, at 55 million 60-kg bags annually, about 1,300 Robusta coffee trees are planted in an acre.
Coffee farmers have asked that the Government puts in place a national coffee fund through which they can access affordable long-term loans to produce more coffee and grow the subsector.
The head of their umbrella National Union of Coffee Agribusiness (NUCAFE) Joseph Nkandu said lack of access to affordable credit has limited job creation.
Nkandu was speaking during an event to present his Kenya Entrepreneurship showcase Award in Kampala recently.
Nkandu received the Kenya Entrepreneurship showcase Impact Award from the Italian Entrepreneurship for Impact Foundation and Tangaza University, Kenya, in recognition of his farmer ownership model innovation.