With the rainy season at its peak, many farmers across the country can heave a sigh of relief after the long dry spell. In Kasese district, coffee farmers are embarking on the planting season, with a giant share of the cost of coffee seedlings this season, again being met by the Hima Cement Ltd-fun
By Vision Reporter
With the rainy season at its peak, many farmers across the country can heave a sigh of relief after the long dry spell. In Kasese district, coffee farmers are embarking on the planting season, with a giant share of the cost of coffee seedlings this season, again being met by the Hima Cement Ltd-funded coffee project.
Hima pays sh300 for each seedling and a farmer tops up the money with sh50. Fundson Walina is one of the 15,000 beneficiaries in Kasese and Kamwenge districts of the project that started last year in April. In the 2012 September planting season, Walinaplanted 500 Arabica coffee seedlings. Living up in the Rwenzori ranges has greatly favoured his coffee. He lost only 30 trees.
However, the situation is different for some farmers in the lowlands. The long dry spell experienced late last year and at the beginning of the year affected their coffee. Ezra Maseruka lost 150 of the 400 seedlings he planted. This is one of the major challenges facing coffee farmers in the region. Kasese farmers receive Arabica coffee seedlings, while those in Kamwenge get Robusta, which thrives in lowlands. So far, over three million coffee seedlings have been distributed in the two districts.
A total of 7.1 million seedlings are to be distributed by the end of the three-year project. The seedlings are distributed through farmer associations such as Bukonzo Joint Cooperative and Kasese District Farmers’ Association in Kasese and Kamwenge District Farmers Organisation in Kamwenge. Hima Cement partnered with Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), district farmers associations and the local government offi ces of Kasese and Kamwenge to maximise the farmers’ benefi ts from the project.
UCDA provides high quality seedlings for the nursery beds. A farmer does not have to belong to an association to get seedlings. The associations also monitor farmers and offer help with any challenges they might face.
Stephen Barikurungi, the industrial ecology coordinator at Hima Cement, who manages the project, says the decision not to give away seedlings free-of-charge was reached so that farmers could take more responsibility. “The sh50 also earns them support from the farmers’ associations so that they get advice on how to reap fully from their coffee gardens,” he says.
According to Barikurungi, the survival rate of the seedlings that have been distributed, ranges from 80% in Kamwenge and 95% in Kasese highlands. Come 2015, farmers will harvest the fi rst yield of last year’s planting season. On average, each tree will produce 1kg of beans per season.
A year has two seasons. With the three million seedlings that have so far been distributed, at sh5,000 per kilogramme, the first season will bring in over sh15b.
Robert Ssekasala, the UCDA regional coffee extension offi cer, says coffee in Uganda is mostly intercropped with food crops. However, some farmers are getting it wrong. “Most farmers intercrop coffee with big feeders like maize and cassava. We recommend crops like beans and groundnuts that nurture the coffee.”
According to Ssekasala, other challenges facing coffee production in the region include;
*Overgrown coffee trees,which lead to a decline in yields over time.
*Coffee adulteration mainly by traders, leading to poor quality thus fetching low income.
*Weak coffee regulations to address the existing problems of coffee adulteration. Because of the long dry season, Ssekasala advises farmers to provide shade to protect their coffee seedlings in the infant stages.
Coffee contributes between 20-30% of foreign exchange earnings to Uganda.
Coffee farmers in Kamwenge, Kasese get subsidised seedlings