As the largest coffee exporter in Africa, the importance of coffee to Uganda cannot be understated. However, despite coffee’s important economic role in the east African country, many farmers – particularly smallholders – cannot reach a living income from their coffee farming operations. This forms part of the motivation for a new GCP Collective Action Initiative, which is currently shaping up.
“Looking at coffee as a business in Uganda, we believe coffee is going to have a transformative impact on households and the overall economy.”Emmanuel Iyamulemye, Managing Director at Uganda Coffee Development Authority.
Mr Iyamulemye was talking at a special introductory meeting presented by GCP, and Café Africa Uganda to encourage collaboration between companies and organizations to tackle some of the challenges facing coffee sustainability in Uganda through the new GCP Collective Action Initiative: “Ugandan Youth for Coffee: Developing Prosperity through Rehabilitation & Rejuvenation”.
Currently, two-thirds of Uganda’s 1.7 million coffee farmers operate under a low-input-low-output system characterized by farms with a large stock of old, overgrown and poorly managed coffee trees. As a result, the coffee yields of traditional farmers are at a quarter to one-third of optimum yields; low yields and productivity limit the potential income producers can receive from their farms. These critical, but surmountable challenges form the backdrop for the new GCP Collective Action Initiative, which will develop an rehabilitation and rejuvenation (R&R) tool kit based on a tested step-wise coffee agronomy enhancement model, and roll it out to 30,000 farmers through 150 youth private coffee service providers educated on R&R.
The expected impact on the initial 1.5 million treated trees, is a 70-100% increase of yield per tree within two years after the treatment. Through this, the initiative expects to contribute to closing the living income gap of traditional coffee farmers, and to generally improve livelihoods in Uganda’s coffee-producing communities by creating employment opportunities for young men and women.
The Ugandan Youth for Coffee initiative will utilize the results and learnings of a previous GCP Collective Action Initiative, ‘Towards Integrating Coffee Extension Services’ (TICS). TICS showed that quick gains in coffee yields of traditional coffee farmers are possible by treating aged trees with cheap and straightforward practices, such as stumping, pruning, desuckering, weeding and mulching. Secondly, TICS showed that rural-based youth can successfully establish themselves as private coffee service providers, and be hired as such by farmers and public and private coffee outreach program.
A key aspect of GCP Collective Action Initiatives is that they are connected to the National Coffee Platform’s priorities and local initiatives and bring companies and stakeholders together in a pre-competitive environment. This was highlighted during the webinar by Nadia Hoarau-Mwaura, the sustainability director of JDE Peet’s, which partnered in the TICS program.
“What was really important is that whatever we are doing, it is aligned with the government policies and the UCDA roadmap.The Uganda coffee roadmap has a clear strategy to quadruple coffee exports to 20 million bags, and it’s really exciting to see that such initiatives are going to make this happen.”
The “Ugandan Youth for Coffee” program is one of a series of GCP Collective Action Initiatives that are already taking place in countries such as Vietnam and Brazil. GCP Collective Action Initiatives help mobilize the GCP Membership and partners around important local and global coffee production and sustainability issues. By collectively and pre-competitively taking action on pressing sustainability issues with local ownership, resources are spent more efficiently, the impact is higher, and best practices and lessons are more widely shared for the benefit of coffee farmers, GCP Members globally, and across GCP’s Country Platform Network that includes 10 of the most important coffee origins.
Did you miss the introductory meeting? Watch the recording here.