The State Minister for Animal Industry, Maj Bright Rwamirama, has said the Ministry of Finance has embarked on mechanisms through which farmers can start benefiting from a Shs500 billion credit facility to improve farm production.
While addressing the National Farmers Council at their annual assembly last week, Maj Rwamirama, said his ministry is disappointed with the low absorption of the Shs500 billion facility which Bank of Uganda created for 15 commercial banks to disburse to farmers so as to mechanise their farms.
"Government has been putting aside Shs60 billion for the last four years to 15 commercial banks so that farmers can buy tractors, milk pumps, post-harvest handling equipment and ox-ploughs for farm power but unfortunately the absorption rate has been only 40 per cent, because farmers cannot write bankable projects," he said.
He added that in order for farmers to benefit from this line of credit, they must prove that they are going to produce something from which they will repay the loan and advised them to stop working in isolation because it breeds exploitation by middlemen since they lack a voice to lobby.
From Daily Monitor
On 5th/August/2014, NUCAFE Staff received Omukwano certificate that Caffee River has given NUCAFE member coffee farmers for the long standing business relationship in linking high quality coffee to coffee consumers in Italy.
Omukwano represents the effort of people in different countries to overcome the hurdles that create a heavy burden to the weaker link of the chain, the farmers, and at the same time to produce a much better quality of coffee.
Lengthy dry spells, which have been atributed to climate change, are having serious effects on farmers' livelihoods. Researchers are developing drought tolerant crops to help them cope.
Coffee farmers, whose yields have been affected by effects of climate change especially the lengthy dry spells that have hit sub Saharan Africa including Uganda, will soon have the option of growing the drought-tolerant coffee variety which scientists are currently working upon.
Crop scientists at the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), in Kituuza, Mukono, have been breeding improved coffee varieties, which include those resistant against the coffee wilt disease. They are currently venturing into breeding drought-tolerant varieties in a bid to save farmers who are harvesting poor yields as a result of the effects of climate change.
Survive drought stress
The head of the Coffee Research Institute (COREC) at Kituuza, Dr Africano Kangire, said his team has already began the research work on the drought-tolerant coffee variety using the conventional method, where they pick coffee plantlets at random and grow them under drought conditions.
Those varieties that survive the drought stress are selected for further multiplication and given out to farmers.
However, the team now wants to venture into breeding varieties that are in the wild especially those from Kibaale forest, in western Uganda, and those from Zoka forest, south of Amuru district in northern Uganda, because they have genes which are resistant to drought.
Dr Kangire was addressing stake holders in a recent consultative public dialogue at Makerere University School of Agricultural Sciences on the topic Threats posed by climate change on Uganda's coffee and the mitigating factors.
"We have asked the National Forest Authority to protect these two forests from encroachers because we know both wild and indigenous coffee species that have resistance to drought are growing there. These are species we shall develop and multiply to give to farmers who are currently harvesting low yields as a result of effects of the changing climatic conditions", he said.
Given to farmers
The team is set to start the research process later this year. They are going to harvest the coffee plantlets from the two forests, take them to the green house in Kituuza and subject them to hot weather conditions to ascertain its resistance to drought.
Those varieties which will be seen growing well under this condition will be multiplied and given to farmers.
He said with the increase of temperatures to two degrees Celsius, most areas in Uganda where farmers used to grow coffee will become extinct because farmers are now faced with more frequent drought, floods, pests and diseases and soil erosion as a result of climate change.
According to Dr Kangire, due to the increasing demand of Uganda's Robusta coffee in the world market, his team apart from developing varieties which are resistant to these climate change effects is also sensitising farmers to intercrop coffee trees with banana plantlets.
This practice enriches the soil nutrient meaning both plants will resist pests and disease infection. Farmers have also been advised to use fertilisers as means of curbing some of these climate change effects.
This, he said, is management practice which will help improve farmers yields. Most farmers in eastern and central Uganda have resorted to this practice and are realising better yields.
The entrepreneurship manager of Uganda Coffee Farmers Organisation in Uganda, Mr Deus Nuwagaba said by the year 2050, there will be no trading in coffee if climate change effects affecting the plant are not addressed.
Variations in income
This he said is because these effects will cause reduced suitable production of the plant incapable of competing in the global market as well as poor returns of investment in the coffee sector by smallholder farmers leading to variations in their income.
"The huge untapped potential for agribusiness in Africa offers the best prospect for addressing the complex issues of unemployment, extreme poverty and food and nutrition insecurity," explains Joseph Nkandu, managing director of the the Danida-funded UniBRAIN Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Limited (CURAD), "particularly by reducing post-harvest losses and adding value to their produce." In Uganda's coffee value chain, CURAD is responding to this by providing agribusiness 'incubation', a process which nurtures young men and women entrepreneurs, helping them survive and grow during the start-up period by providing services and resources tailored to enhance their competitiveness. The process provides business development, market access and financial services, as well as mentoring and networking.
The inspiration for CURAD arose from the fact that there is sufficient land, labour and capital in Africa but agribusiness is constrained by insufficient entrepreneurial capacity. In Uganda, the rise in food consumption - driven by population growth and an expanding middle class - is creating huge agribusiness opportunities which CURAD is determined must not be lost.
"Universities and research institutions around the globe are a source of innovations, technologies and processes that, once tapped and commercialized by the business community, accelerate economic development," says Nkandu. But in many cases, universities, businesses and research institutions work in isolation from each other. To ensure that incubators foster partnerships, develop agreed upon best practices and create cultures and environments that promote innovation and entrepreneurship, UniBRAIN ensures that each incubator is owned by at least one university, a business and a research institution. In Uganda, UniBRAIN has combined the strengths of Makerere University, the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) Ltd, and the National Agricultural Research Organization's (NARO) Coffee Research Institute to facilitate an innovation incubator.
The Africa Commission has observed that when university graduates do business they create more jobs than those without a university education. So CURAD's key clients are young graduates who have business concepts that promise to be sustainable and scale-able. Selection is undertaken through a competitive process: the strength of a business plan is considered alongside the results of an entrepreneurial test, which interested entrepreneurs complete. Each entrepreneur is nurtured through mentoring and coaching programmes, provided with office space, helped to register their company, and linked to financial institutions. Joy Munge is just one ambitious young graduate who has benefited, currently being supported to develop a business plan for a sweetened instant coffee drink. As well as developing business plans, the start-ups are provided with agribusiness development services through capacity building and training.
Right from the outset, CURAD's 'Triple Helix' (university-business-research) approach to agribusiness incubation has greatly improved the way in which the staff of Makerere University's College of Agriculture and NARO interact with the private sector - and particularly with individual businesses, including NUCAFE. The improved inter-institutional trust has encouraged NARO to commit technologies and processes emerging from its research for commercialisation, enabling its research to have greater impact. For example, NARO has made available seven Coffee Wilt Disease-resistant varieties for commercialisation through the incubator that will improve farmers' crop protection against the wilt disease which killed over 50 per cent of Uganda's robusta coffee trees. The young entrepreneurs are key in facilitating innovations and technology development, and creating enterprises that ensure smallholder farmers benefit. It is estimated that through this UniBRAIN commercialisation effort, over 20,000 smallholder farmers will access clean planting materials.
At the same time, CURAD is using NUCAFE's innovative hybrid Farmer Ownership Model, which over the last ten years has enabled smallholder farmers to assume a greater role within the value chain and increase their share of revenue generated from 'finished' products. Makerere University has initiated curriculum reforms with a pilot agribusiness curriculum beginning with internships for students and equipping lecturers with new or improved teaching methods. The curriculum will also include guest speakers, entrepreneurs, mentors and coaches during the delivery of the course to increase interaction of students and private business owners. This ignited excitement in entrepreneurship has resulted in an overwhelming demand for the incubator's services. "I now see a bright future in expanding my yoghurt business to include coffee flavours," says one incubatee, Agnes Orishaba. There are currently over 60 prospective incubatees - with 80 per cent from Makerere University and the other 20 per cent individuals from other universities and the private sector - who have registered their interest in CURAD's comprehensive and integrated support services.
In another approach to capacity strengthening, CURAD is supporting 25 interns through its consortium member NUCAFE under an "Earn As You Learn Programme" which is helping the University develop better quality graduates with more entrepreneurial and practical hands-on experience, who are able to attract employment or start up their own businesses. Through CURAD, NUCAFE has in turn accessed a lot of partnerships and networks that have greatly improved the visibility of its coffee brand and has boosted demand. Sales of coffee have more than quadrupled.
Tapping into its widespread network of partners, CURAD is organising an international training course in general tools and concepts of agribusiness and small and medium enterprise (SME) development with the Danida Fellowship Centre (DFC) and NIRAS, an international consulting company. This will advance North-South collaboration in Africa's growing food-agribusinesses. The course will be held from 4-15 November 2013 at CURAD's incubation centre.
"CURAD is going to be Uganda's Silicon Valley in the agribusiness sector in Uganda," says Nkandu.
A new agriculture funding line will exploit the mobile money platform to reach 5,000 coffee farmers again showing the impact mobile commerce is having in boosting financial inclusion.
3,000 farmers will initially be reached in the aBi trust-Opportunity bank partnership in the districts of Mubende, Mityana and Masaka which are major coffee growing areas. According to aBi Trust, a collaboration between Denmark and the Ugandan government with funding from several agencies, the programme kicks off immediately.
aBi Trust's partnership with Opportunity Bank will exploit the bank's relationship with MTN and Airtel which enables farmers make deposits and withdrawals through their mobile phones without having to physically come to the bank's networks.
"Loan officers will now go to the fields instead of asking farmers to come to the bank," said Peter Ochienghs, acting chief executive of aBi Trust during the signing of the sh830m credit line at the aBi offices in Kampala on Monday.
Mobile money has in about six years courted more customers (about 10 million) compared to formal banking which has about 5 million customers. It has revolutionized financial transaction and helped with financial deepening especially in the rural areas which have for decades been underserved by formal banking.