Africa’s second largest coffee producer, behind Ethiopia. Uganda became a major
player in coffee production after political unrest in former top grower Ivory Coast
disrupted coffee growing there. But, now coffee wilt disease is cutting
Uganda’s coffee output and slashing its earnings.
Ngabirano, the managing director of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority,
told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that the threat of coffee
wilt for Uganda’s coffee production is serious. “It (coffee wilt) has had a
devastating effect in that more than fifty percent of the robusta (coffee)
trees have been destroyed by this disease.”
He said farmers’ earnings have
been affected, as has the country’s foreign exchange earnings. “The fact that
we do not have any scientific cure yet means we have to breed for resistance.
Scientists take long to respond to such issues (of emerging diseases). So
really the impact is devastating.”
Ngabirano said the
short-term response to coffee wilt must be proper farm management, which he
said “seems to temporarily help in that all the plants that are still good do
not succumb to the wilt as much as the weak ones. As a short-term measure, we
are emphasizing good husbandry and good farm practices,” he said.
He said, “In addition to
Uganda’s coffee being grown on small-scale holdings, it is also grown primarily
by elderly people. These are easy to mobilize because they tend to listen to
advice and they have a lot of attachment to their crops. The challenge is for
them (elderly farmers) to implement what they have been told to do.”
Ngabirano said it is no
longer possible to mobilize coffee farmers through cooperative unions because
they were disbanded as a result of trade liberalization of the coffee sector.
“We now have farm level organizations where we have farmer groups organizing
around their common cause.”
The Uganda Coffee Development Authority was
established by statute in 1994 after the liberalization of the coffee industry
to promote and oversee the development of the coffee industry through research,
quality assurance and improved marketing.