In Uganda, the Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program (APEP) provides technical assistance and training to nearly 100,000 farmers. Two thousand of them are struggling coffee growers in Mukono district. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Machrine Birungi in Kampala says the United States Agency for international development (USAID) is working to improve agricultural productivity in Africa, and as part of that effort, it is cooperating with Kyaganyi Coffee Limited.
Together they’re building demonstration gardens and a nursery to show farmers how to grow improved varieties of Robusta coffee. The project trains field personnel and provides equipment like tarpaulins for drying coffee.
The program is also helping to create producer organizations that will show small farmers how to negotiate fairer prices for their coffee beans and it will help smallholders get certification. They will be able to charge export companies more if they can show that they’ve improved the quality of their crops by using organic growing methods and reducing the use of toxic chemicals.
Bunjo William is a farmer in Ziribatude village in Makuno district, about 21 kilometers from Kampala. He says he had given up on growing coffee, but thanks to support from USAID’s agricultural enhancement program, he’s giving it another try, “I had abandoned my coffee farming because of the problem of coffee wilt disease and low prices. But when APEP and Kyagalanyi started this project I was encouraged to improve and plant more coffee with extension services and good agricultural practices. Now my shamba [farm] is expanding together with my income.”
Bunjo is not the only farmer to give coffee a second chance. The program has convinced hundreds of others to grow it, raising the number of coffee farmers in Mukono district from 2,000 to 3,000. The farmers planted about 123,000 wilt-resistant coffee trees and plan to plant one million trees in the next five years.
One of those farmers is Specioza Batusa Mubiru. Like many others in Mukoni, she had nearly given up on growing coffee. Batusa credits the facilities at Kyagalanyi Ltd’s project Nakanyonyi in Mukono district for improving production, “In the past, our coffee farming had declined due to poor management, high prices of inputs like manure and poor farming methods, but through USAID APEP we have achieved good business [training], yield [increases] from one kilogram to five kilograms per tree and [a lot more profit.]”
Henrietta Holsman Fore is the USAID administrator and the director of United States foreign assistance. She visited Uganda recently and says the success of the agency’s work with Kyagalanyi Coffee Limited makes it a model for Uganda.
She said,“If you encourage private-public partnerships, you tap the enormous energy and technology of private companies. Many governments struggle to keep up. Business has a way of bringing technologies and scientists, income markets and supply value chain to any operation in agriculture. Its very clear with so many Ugandan farmers hoping to export their products, this is an excellent way to have tied in with the markets of the world.”
The Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program has so far reached over 100,000 farmers across Uganda. The initiative helps prove that with targeted support, farmers can produce high quality coffee and improve income in a way that’s environmentally friendly (“sustainable.”)