Emmanuel Iyamulemye, UCDA Managing Director speaking at the engagement meeting
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has started conducting engagement meetings with key stakeholders in preparation for the registration of coffee farmers across the country.
This comes after President Yoweri Museveni duly assented to the National Coffee Act, 2021 on 31st August 2021. The Act was gazetted on 13th September 2021 under supplement Act No. 17.
Under Clause 26, the Act mandates UCDA to register all coffee farmers.
Speaking at an engagement meeting organized by Cafe Africa about the farmer registration exercise held on Friday 24 September 2021 at Kampala Serena Hotel, UCDA Managing Director, Emmanuel Iyamulemye said the Authority plans to recruit and use Parish Coffee Development Advisors (PCDAs) to register coffee farmers. These will be resident in the Parish, he said.
He explained that the registration of coffee farmers is important because it will enhance traceability of exported coffee right from the farmer level.
“Traceability is the key to buyer confidence and transparent relationships with smallholder farmers which will facilitate marketing of the coffee and fetch premium prices,” Iyamulemye said.
He emphasized that the register won’t be used for taxation purposes.
“I want to be clear that [the objective of] farmer registration is not for taxation and the process will be absolutely free. Read every part of The National Coffee Act 2021 to get the facts. We are looking for traceability & competitiveness of the coffee sector,” Iyamulemye noted.
He added that the farmer register will enhance distribution of farm inputs, irrigation, which will subsequently increase coffee production and productivity.
“It (farmer registration) will also enhance extension service delivery, collective marketing and access to credit,” he said, adding that it will also “address critical gaps in production, post-harvest handling, processing and marketing of coffee so as to maximize the benefits to the farmers.”
Iyamulemye also noted that the farmer register will promote and support certification schemes for example organic and fair trade which are key in developing competitiveness in the coffee market and in turn bring premium price to farmers.
He also said that publicized information from UCDA will attract partners, investors and researchers who are pertinent to the development of the industry.
“UCDA will keep the coffee farmers’ register updated for planning purposes. The updating will be done at Sub County and District level and then shared with UCDA,” he said, adding that in the past, the Authority has been registering farmers while distributing coffee seedlings.
Details about Parish Coffee Development Advisors
Robert Nangatsa, the Extension Manager at UCDA said the Authority has engaged ICT experts and consultants to design a customized mobile App that will be used in the registration of farmers. He adds that they are also coming up with Geo-spatial M & E Extension System which will be used to track UCDA extension workers at all times in communities.
Speaking exclusively to Business Focus at the sidelines of the event, Nangatsa said the system will be uploaded with training materials.
“We shall be able know where farmer training meetings are taking place across the country and the number of people who have attended because they will have to take photos. The attendees will have to sign using the App,” he said.
He added that they will avail tablets or smart phones to Parish Coffee Development Officers, who they intend to among other things, use to register coffee farmers across the country.
He said UCDA came up with this Parish level structure to improve on its extension services to farmers, noting that currently Uganda has 126 districts growing coffee from 98 districts in 2014. However, due to budget constraints, UCDA has 55 extension officers spread across the country.
“On average, each Regional Coffee Extension Officer is catering for 2.5 districts. We estimate coffee farmers across the country to be 1.8 million. This means each extension officer reaches less than 100,000 farmers annually,” Nangatsa said.
He explained that coffee farmers in groups or cooperatives are few and meeting them has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The big question is; how do we reach out to the rising needs of coffee farmers who are on increase? That’s why we came up with Parish Coffee Development Advisors,” he said, adding that they have a plan to recruit more extension officers so that each district has one.
He said that the Parish Coffee Development Advisors will be residents in the area and will go through intensive training so that they can be able to train other farmers in agronomy and post harvest handling among others.
He noted that they will work closely with regional coffee extension officers and Agriculture officials at the Sub-county.
“They (Parish Coffee Development Advisors) will train farmers after we equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills. We are already developing charts and training materials they will use,” he said, adding: “We shall have coffee demonstration gardens established in each parish to act as learning and training centres.”
He noted that Uganda currently has about 7086 Parishes. However, they will start with 203 Parishes before the end of the 2021/22 Financial Year.
Asked whether this won’t be expensive given the budget constraints UCDA faces, Nangatsa said they are working with partners like Cafe Africa and aBi Development Ltd among others stakeholders to implement this innovation. He added that the PCDAs will not be paid salaries but they will be facilitated to do the job.
“From the 7086 Parish Coffee Development Advisors, we shall use about 5,000 to register coffee farmers,” he said, adding that the App shall be flexible and user-friendly.
“For example, the App will have the capability to work offline; information will be uploaded once one reaches the area with network,” he said.
At Friday’s meeting, it was resolved to set up a technical working committee made up of various stakeholders to guide UCDA on how to successfully register coffee farmers.
A number of stakeholders who attended the meeting physically and virtually welcomed the National Coffee Act, 2021 and Clause 26 in particular that mandates UCDA to register coffee farmers.
They argued that the database will be crucial in facilitating the provision of services to coffee farmers individually or through farmer groups and most importantly, lay the foundation for a nationwide system of coffee traceability.