Coffee production in Uganda has increased from about three million bags (60 kilogrammes each) a few years ago to over eight million bags last year according to figures from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).
It is likely that a bigger number of bags will be registered this year given the new interest and effort that farmers, the government, and other players are devoting to coffee farming.
Anthony Sekaddu, Production Manager at Kibinge Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society in Bukomansimbi attributes the sharp increase to a number of factors.
“In the past, coffee farmers paid little attention to planting quality coffee seedlings,” he says.
“Today the smart ones choose to plant cloned coffee seedlings that have been well selected and developed by researchers at National Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute (NaCCORI) of Naro Kituza. They are available all over in licensed nurseries across the coffee growing regions. The varieties are high yielding and resistant to the destructive Coffee Wilt Disease. As Kibinge Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society we have our own coffee nurseries fully approved of by UCDA) and we ask our member farmers to plant only seedlings from our nurseries,” Sekaddu says.
Secondly, Sekaddu pointed out that today coffee farmers are given a lot of training in better farming practices, how to apply fertilisers, what type of fertilisers to use, and when to apply them which was not so much the case before.
Kibinge Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd actually obliges its farmers to use organic manure and always assists the farmers to get cow dung for use in their plantations.
It also regularly trains its farmers to make compost manure and organic concoctions to fight pests. It wants all its farmers to keep livestock as a way of obtaining manure.
Elsewhere in the Masaka region many farmers use synthetic fertilisers as well to boost production.
Sekaddu went on to mention the enormous Mwanyi Telimba campaign of the Kabaka’s government, led by Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga as being a major contribution to the big coffee volumes produced these days, especially in the Central Region.
“We cannot of course forget the Uganda government itself which made coffee the main poverty fighting crop and even went to the extent of supplying free seedlings to interested farmers,” he said.
Sekaddu further pointed out that the high coffee prices have attracted more people to growing the crop.
“Remember that in the past most people found banana farming to be more paying since it was not so much a seasonal crop like coffee in which case the farmer has to wait for months to earn money. However the banana crop is under attack by incurable diseases and increasingly people are turning their banana plantations into coffee plantations.”
Asked what challenges he has had as the production manager and supervisor of operations in the coffee cooperative society in the outgoing harvesting season Sekaddu said he had issues with some farmers who harvested unripe coffee cherries and others who failed to store their harvested coffee properly.
“We have put up measures to ensure that they are helped to meet the desired quality standards. One of the measures is the provision of solar coffee driers on credit to many of our farmers. The coffee is safely protected from dust and rain as it dries. It dries to the required moisture content percentage, and it has no foreign smell whatsoever. We also provide tarpaulins to farmers on credit at the beginning of every harvest season.”
He went on to disclose that many farmers are forced to harvest coffee before it is fully ripe because of personal financial difficulties and also due to the fear that thieves might harvest the crop from their gardens before they do.
“Our solution to this is that our members are also required to be members of Kibinge Coffee Farmers Saving and Cooperative Society Microfinance which can provide them with low credit loans to meet urgent needs like school fees, medical bills, and others. In their villages some of them form coffee protection security patrol teams to mitigate coffee theft during the night.”