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Don’t tell people to grow coffee, show them the value

For several years now, it has been trendy for our politicians and other leaders to advise farmers to plant coffee in order to reduce poverty.
Many of them have also donated coffee seedlings to the farmers to plant. One MP in Masaka region gave out coffee seedlings last month when the rainy season was about to end.
Many of his targeted constituents scoffed at him for the “mis-timing”.
They said they were hardly surprised since he is not a farmer himself and had no idea when coffee seedlings are planted.
Actually nearly all of them had already received coffee seedlings through Naads (National Agricultural Advisory Services).

More interaction
But who is not aware, anyway, that coffee has been grown in this country for decades as a cash crop and that our farmers hardly need any reminding about growing it for income generation?
Rather, at this stage, we should be helping them to earn more from the crop, given that it is the most traded commodity in the world after oil. There ought to be more interaction between the farmers and the politicians beyond mere donation of seedlings, which has often been interpreted as voter bribery.

From farm to cup
The politicians should be more involved in protecting the smallholder coffee farmer from exploitation by traders and middlemen. They should engage them in better farming methods and post-harvest handling of coffee.
The politicians should participate in stopping farmers from such bad practices as drying coffee on the bare ground, which compromises the quality of the crop and reduces its market value. They ought to be involved in the effort to mobilise smallholder farmers into business-oriented associations.

They should educate the farmers about the coffee value chain and the crop’s journey from the farm to the coffee cup in Europe or America in terms of prices. This is so that they are in a position to appreciate the real value of their product.
The politicians should participate in the effort to enable farmers gain control of their crop and to adopt what Joseph Nkandu, managing director, National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe), refers to as the “Farmer Ownership Model”.
From Monitor Publications