UCDA legal manager, Eunice Kabibi addressing the coffee sub sector stakeholders at Peaceful Gardens in Nakaseke on Wednesday
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has started a countrywide sensitisation drive of coffee farmers on the new law – the National Coffee Act No. 17 of 2021.
The Act repealed and replaced the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) Act, Cap. 325, which was enacted in 1991 and only covered off-farm activities of marketing and processing, leaving on-farm activities like planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and post-harvest handling outside the scope of the law.
This Act gives UCDA powers to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain.
On August 31, 2021, President Yoweri Museveni assented to the National Coffee Act, 2021 and it was gazetted on September 13, 2021.
With the law now in force, UCDA is carrying out a countrywide sensitisation campaign targeting all stakeholders along the coffee value chain. On Wednesday December 15, 2021 a team from UCDA met farmers (those who belong to cooperatives and those who do not), traders, processors, roasters and nursery operators among others in Kapeeka sub county, Nakaseke district. The event took place under strict observance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as guided by the Ministry of Health in the fight against COVID-19.
The main objective of the campaign is to create awareness of the law and address concerns and misinformation over sections in the legislation including offences, penalties and registration of farmers.
Eunice Kabibi, the UCDA Ag. Board Secretary and Legal Manager explained the new law in detail and clarified that registration is different from licensing.
“We are not licensing farmers. We are registering farmers. This is to benefit the farmer, to benefit the sector. We normally have our budgets and work plans as Government. But for us to plan and to be able to budget, we need to know the people we are planning for, where they are, what inputs they need and how we can get these inputs so that we can serve them well,” Kabibi explained to the attentive audience.
She added: “We need to give farmers extension services, sensitise our stakeholders and know where they are, who they are and what their needs are and we can only do that using statistics. How do we get these statistics? Through registration. License comes with a certain fee. License is only for those who are benefiting commercially. Farmer registration is voluntary and free of charge.”
Kabibi further explained to the stakeholders that the purpose of the act is to regulate the entire coffee value chain, from the farm to the cup to ensure that the value chain is all catered for.
“Initially, the law which we had was only providing for off-farm while the farm and its management and the harvesting of coffee were left out. Now the law is addressing the entire coffee value chain. The other issue is that there were clauses in the old law that became redundant when we liberalized the economy. For example, we had a price committee which currently is of no use because of the liberalized economy. All those redundant clauses [were left out of the current law],” Kabibi said.
On the issue of penalties, Kabibi says: “We had very weak penalties which were only for a certain section. They were only targeting off-farm and there were gaps on the on-farm issues yet we know the quality of coffee starts on the farm. If you don’t deal with issues on the farm, then you are basically dealing with bad coffee from the start. So that’s why we had to repeal and replace the law to cover the issues involved in the coffee value chain, from the farm to the cup.” She concluded by calling on the stakeholders to work together with UCDA to keep coffee as the number one cash crop as this will benefit them and the country at large.
Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) Coordinator in charge of Nakaseke South, Col. Chris Nyanzi Kaddu commended UCDA for improving the coffee sub sector. He clarified to the farmers that the seedlings they have received so far since 2013 (over 9 million seedlings) are given to them by Government through UCDA. OWC simply distributes.
Nyanzi is optimistic that the new law will strengthen regulation, saying that the impact of the regulation will be felt positively in the pockets of the farmer. He urged the stakeholders present at the sensitisation meeting to be ambassadors and spread the gospel to the coffee sub sector players who were not able to attend.
Mary Nakkazi, a Councilor at Kiwoko Town Council says that coffee is wealth and that she was born and raised to know that coffee is here to stay, for generations to come and “we will leave it here”. She called on the participants to appreciate everything that seeks to protect coffee including the National Coffee Act, 2021.
Her remarks are not very different from that of Rachael Kibunga, a coffee farmer in Kapeeka.
According to Kibunga, the biggest issue in the area is farmers selling unripe coffee while others sell the coffee at flowering stage. She says these decisions are informed by the farmers’ financial challenges. However, she notes that they (farmers) have come together to form an association that will offer financial bailouts to their members so that they do not sell unripe coffee or sell them to middlemen before harvest time.
But by and large, Kibunga said she was happy with the new law. She asked UCDA to continue sensitising farmers for the betterment of the sector.
Abel Lubowa and Fred Musoke, also farmers from the same area agree that before Wednesday’s sensitisation, they had concerns about the new law but were quick to note that after the explanations offered by the UCDA officials, they are at peace with the National Coffee Act, 2021.
The sensitisation campaign moves to Mityana this Friday, with other districts lined up for the coming weeks into next year.