The goal is to put coffee-farming in the hands of young people by encouraging land-owning farmers to let younger family members use their land
KYAMPUNGU, Uganda, Dec 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Like many young rural Ugandans, Christine Kyakunda needs more land. She and her husband farm 1.5 acres – some inherited, some bought, some borrowed from her widowed mother-in-law – but it is not enough to provide for her family.
“My kids now eat potatoes, cassava and beans,” the 23-year-old said of the crops, which are eaten by the poorest, and that they grow on one-third of their holding in Kyampungu, a small village in the country’s southwest.
The remaining two-thirds is covered in coffee shrubs. Coffee has become lucrative in recent years, and more land would mean more money. Then, she said, her children – aged six and two – “would be eating bread, milk with sugar, and eggs”.
She could also benefit from having better access to markets. A project launched earlier this year in Kanungu district, where she lives, should help her and other young people who struggle to access land.
Along with other smallholders, Kyakunda is optimistic that the three-year European Union-funded project will enable her family to get more land and improve their livelihoods.
Mukasa Joseph, who drives a motorcycle taxi known as a boda boda, is one of those. He has grown coffee for five years, but a lack of land means he struggles to earn enough.
More land would also allow him to buy a taxi, he said. That would boost his status from “a boda boda rider to a taxi driver”.
Since March, officials have been recruiting and training staff, and talking to communities, said Sam Viney, communications officer for Farm Africa, a charity involved with the project.
The goal is to put coffee-farming in the hands of 3,600 young people. It will do that by encouraging land-owning farmers to let younger family members use some of their land for growing the bean.
“We will engage communities through workshops to sign community land-use agreements that give youths and women access to land,” said project coordinator Amodoi Vincent.
With those agreements in place, young men and women would not only “have access to land but will also have control over it,” said Viney.
“Some of the farmers we have met have tens or even hundreds of acres of land, but some of the young farmers are working on less than two or three acres,” Viney said.
Farming is about access to land, said Fredrick Muhanguzi, the farmers’ organisation specialist at the ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries.
But most parents, he said, do not want to hand their children land on which to grow perennial crops – such as coffee – that have a cycle longer than two years and which are therefore considered a long-term investment.
“This is the reason coffee-farming is looked at as an enterprise of old people,” he said, adding that when the ministry hands out free coffee seedlings, young people are reluctant to take them, because they have nowhere to plant them.
“Coffee farming is only in the hands of those aged 60 and above,” he said.
The project will tackle a linked issue: unemployment. Some 78 percent of Uganda’s 37.6 million people are under 30, the 2014 census showed.
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics said that under its loose definition of unemployment, 16.4 percent of those 16-30 were jobless as of 2015.
Half an acre of land would allow an unemployed person to make a living from coffee, said Joshua Rukundo, who heads the Kigezi Coffee Development Academy, a locally-based community group. That would bring fundamental changes.
“Even if it is half an acre and you give it to your child to grow coffee now, in a period of three years it is a done deal of harvesting coffee,” Rukundo said.
According to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), a single acre can host 450 Robusta coffee trees or 600 Arabica trees. Each tree can yield 10 kilogrammes of coffee a year, with each kilogramme worth about 4,000 Ugandan shillings ($1).
One acre, then, can generate average monthly revenues of up to $500, a large sum in Uganda where the employed earn an average 416,000 shillings ($110) a month, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics’ national household survey of 2013.
The project will not only train young people to grow quality coffee; it will teach them the skills to process it and connect them to new markets, including for export, said Daniel Mugura, business development officer for Farm Africa.
To that end, the project will work with four coffee-growing cooperatives, he said.
“We will help them … access coffee-processing machinery to process and add value to their coffee – and be able to supply the bigger markets nationally and internationally where they are able to get better prices,” he said.
Seventy-year-old George Tibamwenda, a retired priest, chairs one of the cooperatives involved in nearby Rugyeyo village.
He is enthusiastic about the project’s ability to provide land and employment to young people.
He is also a big fan of coffee – it has, he said, been good to him since he started growing it in 2011 on three acres of his land. His remaining three acres are divided between bananas and tea.
His income from coffee had allowed him a much better life, he said, and he hopes his children – who are aged between 26 and 46 – will follow in his footsteps and earn enough to build their own homes, buy land and send their children to good schools.
Looking ahead, said Allawi Ssemanda, a youth activist and PhD student with an interest in land governance, it was not just parents who were to blame for hanging on to idle land: politicians and cultural institutions were also guilty.
The solution, he said, was heavy taxation of unused land “to force (owners) to give it to youths at a small fee or no cost to make it productive”, and for government to lease its land at low cost to young people for farming.
Access to land, capital hampering youth’s involvement in agri-business
Stakeholder engagement with governments to support the youths should be a component of every programme
Young people in sub-Saharan Africa have keen interest in agriculture especially with the use of technology but are hampered with numerous challenges including limited access to land, skills set, sustainable financing and access to markets, a new report has revealed.
A new study carried out by Heifer International in 21 African countries titled ‘The Future of Africa’s Agriculture – An Assessment of the Role of Youth and Technology,’ reveals that 10 out of 11 countries, with the exception of Tanzania agreed that the most important support required is funding.
However, more training and mentorship were seen as more important than funding in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The survey also reveals that whereas more youths in Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe stressed the need for support in the area of access to markets, their counterparts in Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana prioritized the need for support in agri-technologies. Access to land was the major concern for the youth in Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The organisations working in the sector suggested that the best way to engage youths in agriculture is through technological innovation (39%), government support for young farmers (32%) and inclusion of youths in agriculture policy formulation (21%).
“Most youths in Africa also do not have access to land for agriculture. 59% of youths surveyed do not have access or own land. Land ownership amongst young people is lowest in Ghana, Zambia, Senegal and Rwanda,” the survey notes. “Youths in Malawi seem to have access to land, with only 14% having no access, the lowest among countries surveyed.”
Overall, technology adoption in Africa too remains low, with Ghana, Senegal and Zambia having the lowest agri-tech adoption rate. Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria have the highest technological adoption rates, according to the survey that featured 30,000 youths, stakeholders in innovations and small holder farmers.
William Matovu, a director at Heifer International-Uganda said the paradox of Africa’s economic development is that the continent’s urban and rural populations who produce most of the food is mostly comprised of smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming while living in extreme poverty.
“This scenario scares away the continent’s youth from careers in agriculture, yet ordinarily Africa’s youth should be replacing the aging farming population but this generational shift is not happening fast and well enough to secure Africa’s food security goals,” he said.
He reckoned that Africa’s youths disapproving attitude towards agriculture is mainly a result of lack of funding which is the biggest barrier towards their interest in the sector.
Africa’s agricultural sector accounts for nearly 30% of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and employs 54% of the work force, but it is still underdeveloped.
Mondo Kyateeka, the Commissioner for Youth and Child Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said unfortunately, young people are selling off the only available land to migrate to cities or go abroad for low-skills jobs
He said there are also feelings that older people are not willing to relinquish the land they can no longer use, to the younger persons to use it.
He, however, said the government is seeking ways of curbing the sale of agricultural land, saying the position is that agricultural land should remain for that purpose.
As a result, the survey recommends a review of existing programmes that targets smallholder farmers and that youths must be conducted to determine if the current strategies support the African farmer with the use of technology.
“Innovation must be viewed within the context of the current realities,’ the survey notes. Beyond a smart App, the survey says providing linkages to local and regional markets will go a long way in improving the financial bottom-line of every farmer. The survey says digital literacy must also be a key consideration.
The survey says while smallholder farmers in rural areas do not have access to smart phones or Internet access, a basic phone is a good starting point in introducing the use of technology, through weekly SMS on prevailing market prices and best input bargains.
Furthermore, youths with a keen interest in agri-tech must work collaboratively with smallholder farmers to get a better understanding of their challenges and how to provide sustainable and affordable solutions.
“There is also need to capture data to provide evidence-based results on the immediate benefit and long-term impact of the use of technology by smallholder farmers,” the survey notes, adding that stakeholder engagement with the governments to provide access to land, tax waivers and fiscal policies that deliberately support youths in the sector should be a component of every programme.
Butaleja farmers oppose govt ban on growing rice
Farmers in rice gardens in Hisega Village, Butaleja Town Council, Butaleja District last week.
Farmers in Butaleja District have opposed the government’s decision of banning the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands across the country, saying they should have been consulted.
The farmers say the decision will affect their livelihoods and push them further into poverty.
Last week, the government banned the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands.
In a resolution passed by Cabinetand communicated by the Minister of State for Water and Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, the government said the move will restore the environment that has been degraded by farming activities.
Ms Anywar said Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 8.5 per cent, while forest coverage has dropped from 24 per cent to 12.4 per cent.
Mr David Mulabi, a rice farmer and former contestant for Bunyole East MP, last week said the decision is inhuman and one of the examples of the many discriminative and recklessly managed policy processes.
“The government has been giving out forests to foreigners to build industries. They have not said anything about urban encroachment on wetlands for home construction. Why target the poor farmers who have nowhere to go and have been farming in these wetlands for over 50 years,”Mr Mulabi wondered.
He such a policy with a huge potential for social impact should have gone through long studies and consultations before its implemented.
Mr Mulabi said this could be another government ploy to marginalise the rice farmers in the district, which is about 40 per cent covered by water bodies and wetlands.
“They j simply need to drop the whole thing and start afresh with proper policy consultation with a view of not evicting farmers but to get sustainable and practical solutions,” he said.
Mr Mulabi also accused government for giving a tax waiver to traders to import rice, something he said has led to price drop and has affected the farmers’ income.
“Instead of giving such money to our farmers to improve output, they supported foreign farmers at the expense of Ugandan farmers,” he said.
Ms Sarah Nagawa, another rice farmer, said the decision should be shelved, saying they earn their livelihoods from wetlands.
“These wetlands have paid for my children’s school fees including myself.They should think of better ways instead of taking decisions without consulting us,” he said.
Mr Abdu Walubya, a resident, said the district has been depending on wetlands for farming.
“Almost 70 per cent of the homesteads of the population generate their income through use of these wetlands.Others live and sleep in wetlands. How will the government handle those who sleep and stay in wetlands, ”Mr Walubya said.
The district chairperson, Mr Micheal Higenyi Bory, said if the government takes over wetlands without a clear plan, it will lead to bloodshed.
Raw deal for Sebei as Irish potato prices drop
Farmers in Sebei Sub-region are counting losses following a drastic drop in the prices of Irish potatoes
Farmers in Sebei Sub-region are counting losses following a drastic drop in the prices of Irish potatoes.
A bag of Irish at a farm gate costs about Shs30,000 from Shs70,000 and a kilogramme goes for Shs300 from Shs700.
Farmers attribute the drop in prices to the Covid-19 disruptions, poor road network and the surplus harvest of Irish in neighbouring Kenya, which has now ended in the Uganda market.
In an interview with Daily Monitor at the weekend, the farmers said they were expecting to make fortunes out of the bumper harvest.
They have asked the government to start up a processing plant so that they can add value to the irish.
Mr Isaac Sande, a farmer in Chemonge Village, Kapchesombe, East Division in Kapchorwa District, said they were giving away their produce to middlemen.
“We are just dumping our produce because we don’t have any other alternative. We are making losses and yet we had anticipated better prices,” he said.
Mr Sande said this was the worst price they had experienced in a decade.
“I had invested about Shs3 million as part of a loan from a savings group, expecting to get Shs7 million, but this is now impossible,” he said.
Mr Satya Malewa, the vice chairperson of Kwoti Kapenguria Farmers Group, attributed the low prices to an influx of Irish from Kenya.
“Buyers would easily move here for potatoes, but it is now hard because of hiked transport costs,” he said, adding: “The government should provide us with soft loans.”
Mr Joshua Cherotich,a farmer in Kamakunga, Kapchesombe Sub-county, Kapchorwa District, said he is stuck with about 2 tonnes of irish.
“I invested a lot of money, but the middlemen are giving us peanuts. But by all means, I will give it away because it will rot,” he said.
Mr Joseph Mangusho, a resident of Benet Sub-County in Kween District, said the government should improve the transport network.
“We also don’t have warehouses from where we can store our Irish,” he said.
Ms Susan Chemutai, the secretary for production of Kapchorwa District, said the district produces between 400 and 500 tonnes of Irish potatoes per season.
Ms Everlyne Kubarika, the chairperson of Kapchorwa District, said Sebei Sub-region produces a lot of Irish, which if processed can lift the farmers out of poverty.
Mr William Chemonges, the MP for Kween County, who also seats in the Parliamentary Committee of Science, Technology and Innovation, said they made a presentation to the line minister (on value addition for Irish) who will brief them next month.
“Our farmers face a major challenge of prices. We need a processing plant and machines that can transform the raw Irish into other products in powder form. The Irish should also be preserved for two to three years,’’ he said.
Original Source: Daily monitor.co.ug