Recently, a Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) team led by board chairman, Perez Bukumunhe, visited a number of districts in West Nile region and in the districts of Lango and Acholi sub-regions meeting farmers, local leaders, traders and other stakeholders in the coffee value chain.
The team consisted of two other UCDA board directors, Dr Julius Zake, a professor of soil science at Makerere University, and Fred Luzinda, a prominent coffee farmer in Masaka district.
Bukumunhe’s visit to the region was intended to monitor the technologies and methods used in the effort to roll out coffee growing in the mid-northern region and to rejuvenate Arabica coffee gardens in the West Nile region.
John Njigi (2nd L) of Vinayak Agro Farm, explains a point to UCDA officials
The team was also interested in finding out how far the coffee farmers had been exposed to good agricultural practices, post-harvest harvesting, irrigation, and manure or fertilizer usage, among others.
Traditionally, most of northern Uganda has depended on annual crops such as tobacco, cotton, cassava, maize, beans, soy beans, sunflower and others for cash.
However, according to Paddy Namurebire, UCDA monitoring and evaluation manager, with the end of civil unrest in the recent years, it was considered that the region should be introduced to growing coffee which is a high-value perennial crop with the hope that it will cause economic transformation.
In Amey parish, Zombo district, the team met Rowel Ocandi, an Arabica coffee farmer, who wasn’t sure of the proper fertilisers to use in his garden. Dr Julius Zake advised Ocandi about the importance of testing the soil in the garden before farmers apply fertilizers.
The team generally observed that many coffee gardens in Zombo and Nebbi districts were neglected and unproductive. The coffee trees were ageing and needed pruning and stumping.
UCDA managing director, Dr Emmanuel Iyamulemye, attributed this to lack of incentive on the part of some farmers.
“This is surprising because coffee is almost as good as cash,” he said.
Taking soil samples from Uganda Prisons Paidha newly planted coffee farm for testing by Dr Julius Zake
Talking to various farmers across the region, the UCDA team focused on production of clean planting material, good shade tree seedlings and healthy banana suckers for intercropping with coffee.
Major Manasi Biwinjire, the district coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), however, complained of delayed payment for Arabica coffee nursery operators which he said was discouraging many people from venturing into coffee nursery operation.
John Pascal Wapokra, the chairman of Okoro Coffee Growers Cooperative Union, said they were supplying coffee seedlings to farmers through OWC and they were getting prompt payment.
“Since we want to revamp our cooperative union, we are committed to providing good-quality coffee seedlings to our farmers,” Wapokra said.
Two brothers Denis Onen and George Labeja, both in their twenties, are working on establishing a three-acre Robusta coffee farm at Lalor village, Alero sub-county in Nwoya district. Onen is also head of a village young coffee farmers group and, according to him, they want to turn Lalor into a coffee village. Their crop is about three years old and it already has coffee cherries that would be due for harvest in a few months’ time. The two are also operating a coffee nursery bed.
Apollo Kamugisha, UCDA director, Development Services, pointed out to them that they should make their seedlings pots larger to come up with stronger seedlings.
Jacqueline Tukdel, who has lived in California, USA for many years, has returned to her home village of Peya, Ongaco sub-county, Omoro district where she plans to set up a 100-acre-coffee farm.
So far, she has planted about seven acres of Robusta coffee. She uses goat’s manure to fertilize her farm and she is prepared to undertake irrigation in case of prolonged drought. She employs about twenty women on her farm.
George Labeja inspects the Robusta coffee nursery at Lalor village, Alero sub-county, Nwoya district
Bukumunhe and his team also visited Vinayak agro farm in Nwoya district where about 250 Robusta coffee trees have been planted. John Njigi, the technical manager of the farm, says there plan to plant coffee on 1,000 acres and perhaps even more if conditions continue to be conducive. The farm is located near a permanent source of water and Njigi believes it will be possible to carry out irrigation in case of any need for doing so.
Peter Douglas Okello, Omoro district chairman, revealed to the visiting UCDA team that the district council had directed that each household allocates two acres to coffee growing.
The district vice-chairman, Isaac Newton Ojok, disclosed that there was a plan to make it compulsory for every school in the district to have a two-acre garden of coffee so that the children get introduced to coffee-growing early enough in their lives.
He added that the garden would generate income for the school management committees to improve infrastructure or to purchase scholastic materials. He also suggested that coffee demonstration gardens be established in every sub-county for all and sundry to learn from.
Written by MICHAEL J SSALI
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