Several stakeholders in agriculture have been focusing on extension services to boost production. Some of the efforts have even involved unlikely players.
A case in point is the Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) being trained in extension by Makerere University’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
This training was to enable them handle extension services under National Agricultural Advisory Service (Naads) programme.
However, a number of organisations and agencies have come up with the idea of developing training manuals.
One such manual has been developed by Uganda Coffee Development Authority in conjunction with various partners in the coffee value chain. It outlines guidelines on, among others, agronomy practices to be used in growing coffee, post- harvest handling, pest and disease management and soil conservation.
The manual was drafted by scientists from the Coffee Research Institute (Cori) in Kituuza, Mukono District with funding from abi Trust.
Dr Pashal Musoli, a coffee breeder at CORI, explained that there have been a number of stakeholders each of them developing their own manuals.
But, in 2013, the National Coffee Platform chaired by UCDA reached a decision to develop a unified manual that should be used by extension service providers in the coffee sector.
The platform comprises 14 members including: Ministry of Agriculture, Cori, Naads, abi Trust, Nucafe, Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance, Uganda Coffee Federation, Uganda National Agro Input Dealers Association, International Women in Coffee Alliance and Café Africa.
At research level, Dr Musoli and his team advise coffee farmers to observe 8 ft by 8 ft spacing when planting Arabica coffee and 10 ft by 10 ft for Robusta.
There is emphasis on management of weeds, field preparation, maintenance of soil fertility and pest and disease control.
The target is attaining three tonnes of coffee produced per hectare compared to the current average of 600kg that farmers are harvesting per hectare.
The research institute is mandated to provide foundation seed to UCDA, which then rolls it out to nursery operators for multiplication.
There are 140 nursery operators countrywide who are multiplying varieties resistant to coffee twig borer, which have been released.
There are seven varieties that are classified Kituuza Robusta 1-7. They were started in 1997 by researchers at both Kituuza and National Agricultural Research Laboratories Institute in Kawanda.
Apart from pests like coffee twig borer, there are diseases such as coffee wilt, which infests Robusta coffee, leaf rust and coffee berry disease, which infests Arabica coffee, and Red blister, which affects both varieties.
The manual contains information on agronomic practices such as mulching, stumping, pruning and de-sacking, and post-harvest handling were farmers are advised on proper processing of coffee beans, as well as soil and water conservation.
Harriet Fowler, country director, Café Africa Uganda, remarked that the manual is mainly meant for extension service providers. They are to use while teaching coffee farmers how to apply good practices for better yields.
Meeting the demand
For post-harvest handling, farmers are advised to dry coffee on polythene sheets or tarpaulin. It should be stored under good ventilation, in conditions free from chemicals, and on raised structures.
In the international market, demand for coffee is going up. It is increasing by two million bags per year and estimates are that by 2020, the world will require 107 million bags of coffee.
Since Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, the first being oil, government is urged to encourage coffee production to suit the world market.
The statistics from UCDA show that in 2013/2014, a total of 3.5 million bags of coffee exported, which earned a revenue of US$394m (Shs1.09t).
For Uganda, there is a long way to go compared to Vietnam, one of the leading coffee producing countries in the world, with 33 million bags of Robusta coffee per annum.
Average yield in kilos per hectare
Targeted average yield in kilos per hectare
Total number of bags exported in 2013/2014