Armed with coffee, Uganda’s women, youth look to secure land tenure
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.
Lack of Agronomists worries grape farmers in Mbarara
Grape farmers in Mbarara are concerned that they are earning less from the crop due to the absence of an agronomist to offer expertise on the processes for growing and harvesting the crop.
There are more than 200 grape farmers in Ibaare, Nyamatojo and Nyakayojo, all in the South Division of Mbarara City, where more than three hills are fully covered with the crop. They are mainly planting Muscat and Karmen, which thrive well in semi-arid areas.
But the farmers said that they are growing the crop without clear information on the ideal varieties of grapes grown in Uganda, and knowledge of soil management, site preparation, planting, pruning, pest and disease control, fertilizer application as well as harvesting.
By nature of their work, agronomists work with farmers to help them grow the best possible crops, based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics. They usually conduct experiments to develop the best methods for increasing the quality and production of crops and develop methods for protecting crops from weeds, pests, and harsh climates.
Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Limited said that without a specialist in the region, many of them are left to gamble with the crop. Often, he says, they struggle to manage the spread of pests in grape plantations.
James Mugabi, a grape farmer said he once lost more than 25 tons of grapes to fungus, which he didn’t know and failed to get the best drug. He narrates that once the crop has been attacked by either a pest or disease, the entire plantation is destroyed.
Allan Namanya, a grapes farmer from Katojo said the absence of an agronomist is costing them a lot since grapes are considered the most lucrative crop at the moment. He says that a kilogram of grapes costs between 2,500 and 3,000 Shillings and a bottle of wine costs 20,000, yet it can even cost much higher than this if they are advised on the right farming practices.
Mbarara city Agricultural Officer, Vincent Mugabi, said that the department also has a shortage of personnel knowledgeable about the relatively new crop for the area. He wants the government to consider taking them for training to acquire knowledge.
Grapes are harvested twice a year, in April/May and November/December seasons. They were introduced in Mbarara at Nyamitanga hill the Catholic seat by missionaries in the 1960s.
Original Source: URA via The Independent
Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens
A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.
This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.
Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.
Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.
He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.
Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.
She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.
John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.
Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.
He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.
Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.
Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.
Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.
He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.
Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.
Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.
Original Source: URN via The Independent
Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet
The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.
According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.
He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.
He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.
He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.
He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers. Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive. He says that five of the thirty have since died.
Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.
Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.
He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.
Original Source: URN via The independent
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