Up to 100 coffee farmers from Kibaale district are set to benefit from two organisations in an initiative that could spark off the growth of one of Uganda's widely-exported cash crops in the district.
Support from the joint Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (Curad) and (National Union for Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) has been channelled towards the Bulegete, Mikole, Kyawanyana (B.M.K) Youth Group based in Lubaya, Bwanswa Sub-county. The youths have received up to 50,000 coffee tree seedlings and planted them on 250 acres of land.
Makerere University's Professor Samuel Kyamanywa, who is coordinating the project, says the youth could reap 180 tonnes of graded coffee by 2020. If priced at the current market rates, Kibaale youths could earn in excess of Shs 900 million, according to Kyamanywa. Kyamanywa argued that such projects as B.M.K should be undertaken all over the country to engage employed youths in coffee farming and fight poverty.
"We need to revive coffee farming as a tool to boost job opportunities among the youths," says Kyamanywa. By establishing such projects, coffee authorities are optimistic that the country's coffee production will increase and boost the cash crop's exports, which have oscillated between two and three million bags per year in the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, local coffee and women empowerment organizations have teamed up to campaign for more women in agribusiness to create more employment opportunities. Statistics show that Ugandan women have a minimal stake in agribusiness development initiatives despite the fact that 75 per cent of them are engaged in agriculture, which is largely subsistence.
Speaking at a recent training workshop in Kampala, Ann Dela Apekey, the gender equality specialist at the Ghana-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (Fara), said that any country seeking to boost its economic progress has to get as many women as possible into the bracket of commercial agriculture.
Apekey noted that agriculture provided food, but if commercialised, it would serve as a strong source of money. She argued that since more than 70 per cent of the world's poorest people were women, the best remedy was to get them into agribusiness jobs.
"Women's involvement in agribusiness may not necessarily mean they have to be only in farms. There are many roles along the agricultural value chain such as agro-processing. If a woman is not a business owner, let her be an employee and society ought to refrain from perceiving women as a segment of cheap labour," she said.
Curad director Joseph Nkandu says they are encouraging more women into agribusiness and the organization targets 40 per cent women institutional incubatees. Makerere University, National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) and Nucafe are the other partners supporting Curad in the cause to empower agriculture students and small and medium enterprises with value addition and marketing skills. For instance, Nucafe has set up a special gender office for women to enhance attention to them and deal with their challenges.
Other organisations supporting the cause include the Agribusiness Initiative (aBi) Trust, Enterprise Uganda, Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association, and the Association of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and Environment.
Enterprise development expert Charles Ocici says formation of women farmer groups helps them develop through agribusiness and pushing for access to land, technologies, information and finances.