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Controversy over National Coffee Bill



Kampala, Uganda | PATRICIA AKANKWATSA | One of Uganda’s favourite crop, coffee, could soon be heavily regulated as the government takes a step to amend the existing law.

The proposed law, National Coffee Bill, 2018, seeks to regulate all on-farm and off-farm farm activities in the coffee value chain, repealing the existing law – the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, 1991– that only looked at off-farm activities.

But the people familiar with the law and investments say a regulation alone is not a solution to the current challenges facing the country’s coffee industry.

Robert Kirunda, an advocate of the High Court and a lecturer at Makerere University says the Bill does not spell out its main objectives.

“Is it to attract or repel people from the coffee sector? If it is to attract, then it needs more careful scrutiny. You just can’t pass a law without incentives and facilitation,” he told The Independent in interview.

“The whole Bill has a different motive. What kind of farmer are you going to register? We have farmers with two acres, others with ten acres,” Fred Muhumuza, an economist and lecturer at Makerere University said.

“We had asked Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to do a farmer survey to enable better planning but that survey was never done.”

Muhumuza says it is logistically okay to know who grows coffee and how much he or she grows but that does not require a law.

The government, through the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, has introduced a Bill in parliament, with the intent to regulate the coffee value chain by registering all coffee farmers, coffee nursery operators and coffee value chain actors countrywide.

The farmers’ data will be captured in terms of their land size, number of coffee trees, coffee buyers and sellers, among others.

The proposed law also provides for setting up a National Coffee Institute with the  mandate to carryout coffee research and also engage in other research services in case of any comparative advantage and competence.

It will also give UCDA a mandate to carryout land evaluation to determine whether or not it is suitable for coffee growing as well provide extension services to coffee farmers, a step the critics say is ‘already dead on arrival.’

The Bill proposes a 2-year jail term or Shs960,000 fine for a farmer who fails to take good care of their coffee plantation, poorly stored wet cherries or heaps leading to mold formation, operates an unregistered coffee nursery, or harvests or found in possession of immature cherries.

This development comes as statistics from the UCDA  shows that the country’s coffee export volumes grew 7% to 4.5million 60-kilo bags worth US$492million for the 2017/18 season (Oct-Sep) compared with the previous year as a result of increased yield from the newly planted crops as well as good flowering and beans development.

This was the second consecutive year that Uganda was recording the highest coffee export volumes since 1996 when it recorded 4.15million bags.

Government’s view

Supporters of the proposed law including the State Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempijja and UCDA Executive Director, Emmanuel Iyamulyemye, told The Independent that the amended law will facilitate growth of the coffee industry.

“The proposed law is good for marketing. Good quality coffee is on high demand,” Ssempijja said.

“We can be able to trace the farmer who grows good coffee and this gives confidence to the buyers.”

Janet Akorimo, the chairperson of the Agriculture Committee in parliament said “registration is also important because the government will know how many coffee growers it has.”

Similarly, Ramathan Ggoobi, a senior economics lecturer at Makerere University Business School says the registration exercise is good but the politics involved is bad.

“We have done registration for livestock and see how the diary sector is doing well”, Ggoobi says. “People just have mistrust but the coffee sector is disorganized. There is no data.”

Critics, however, say the registration of farmers in the dairy was driven by the private sector to enable them easy access to raw materials – milk. In any case, the critics say, there was no law to facilitate livestock farmer registration.

Amos Kasigi, the chairman of Uganda Quality Coffee Traders and Processors Association (UQCTPA) said he welcomes penalising farmers who neglect their gardens as this will subsequently improve quality of coffee.

However, Kasigi noted that the punishments suggested in the Bill are too harsh and need to be revised.

Elsewhere in the world, the neighboring Kenya passed a similar law known as the Crops Act of 2013 but it has largely failed to turn around the country’s coffee industry.

“So far, there are no indications that the new pieces of legislation will eliminate loss of produce and turn around the dipping fortunes in the coffee sector, a fit that can only be achieved by significantly improving production,” said Chris Orwa, a data scientist in an opinion published in one of the dailies recently.

On the other hand, though Brazil and Vietnam – the world’s largest coffee producers – have coffee regulations, they also boost water works and diversify agriculture for their farmers in the event of drought. This is to give farmers broader revenue base.

For instance, Brazil has increased the number of small dams ten-fold to 10,000 in the Espírito Santo State since 2014 in an effort to revive agriculture in the region to address the issue of drought.

Possible solutions

Muhumuza notes that the coffee issue is not about regulating farmers. “The best way they should have done it is to go through cooperatives and let the cooperatives supervise their own farmers,” he says, “Because the failures of the farmers cannot be entirely blamed on the farmers. “

He says coffee farmers need to get support from government institutions, in which, the cooperatives would then give them good planting materials, extension services, storage facilities and  packaging.

“We have already had problems with extension staff. They are not on the ground because they lack facilitation,” he says. “(And) are they going to bring them to do just coffee? This is something that has already failed in the past.”

He added that the government should not think of bringing a new Bill to parliament for only coffee since the whole agriculture sector needs revamping.

Original Post: The Independent

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Kigezi In Famine Scare After Drought Hits The Region



Farmers in Rubanda district are living in fear that they may be hit by famine due to the prolonged drought that has greatly affected the area. This comes after the area was hit by heavy rains in the month of May 2023, which left most of the gardens washed away, and since then the dry season has started up to date.

This is the first of its kind for Rubanda district and Kigezi at large to undergo such a prolonged drought.

According to farmers, this is the first of its kind for Rubanda to go through a long drought, adding that they are in fear that they may be hit by famine since they were used to receiving rains at the beginning of August, which is not the case this year. They add that even the seedlings that they had planted excepting that the rains would come have all dried up by the long spell.

Farmers also say that they don’t know what could be the cause that has stopped the rains,adding that the government should come up with a program that provides them with seedlings.

Akampurira Prossy Mbabazi, a woman Member of Parliament for Rubanda District, says that the issue of drought is not only in Rubanda District; however, this is the first of its kind. She adds that the drought comes after the area was hit by heavy rains, which caused a lot of challenges, adding that now it is the drought that may affect the farmers.

Akampurira further says that, as a leader,she will continue to educate farmers on better methods of farming depending on climate change.

Kikafunda Evelyne, founder of Green Environment Promotion (GEP), says it’s sad that farmers in Rubanda district and Kigezi at large are experiencing a long drought. She attributes it to problems of environmental degradation that include swamps being reclaimed, deforestation, and plastic pollution, adding that this is an indication that people don’t mind about the environment.

Kikafunda calls upon all people to take part in protecting the environment, adding that environmentalists should devise means on how to protect the environment.

It’s now been four months since it last rained in the districts of greater Kabale, that is, Rubanda, Kabale, and Rukiga districts, as well as other parts of the Kigezi Subregion.


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Ban GMOs in Africa, farmers urge govts



A cross section of residents from the oil-rich Albertine Region have petitioned African heads of state to ban genetically modified organism (GMOs) and crops across the continent to save Africa’s indigenous crops and animal species from extinction.

The August 26, petition addressed to President William Ruto of Kenya, the Chairperson of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, asks African heads of states who are meeting this week for Africa Climate Dialogue to pass strong resolutions to ban GMOs.

Africa Climate Dialogue kicks off today in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme “Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the World.”

Co-hosted by the Kenya and the African Union Commission, it brings together heads of state and Government, policymakers, civil society organisations, the private sector, multilateral institutions and the youth to design and catalyse actions and solutions for climate change in Africa.

The petitioners under the Uganda Oil Refinery Residents, have made a raft of recommendations including passing a strong resolution to immediately ban the use and promotion of GMO products in African countries, a resolution for promotion of indigenous species of plant seeds and animals in all African states and another resolution to increase budget allocation for agriculture with focus on research in preservation and conservation of indigenous species of plants and animals in Africa.

“This will contribute to knowledge sharing and awareness creation on the relevance of indigenous species as a response to climate change,” the petition recommends, adding: “Lastly, pass resolution to integrate indigenous agriculture practices in education curriculum in some relevant subjects like agriculture and biology in all African countries. This will enable preservation and increased knowledge among the young people on the need to preserve and promote indigenous species.”

The petitioners, drawn from Kabaale and Busheruka sub-counties in Hoima District Uganda where there are planned oil refineries and other infrastructure, say GMOs present a number of risks and their introduction onto the continent could have a huge negative impact on food security, indigenous crops and organisms, health risks and associated problems.

The petitioners say while different African states have made a number of policies, laws and commitments regarding climate change, including integrating the aspect of climate justice into their different state legislations, as a grass root community whose livelihood entirely depends on agriculture, they still believe that leaders have not done enough to respond to these calamities.

“The major concern is about the use and promotion of genetically modified organisms [for both plants and animals] in Africa.

Uganda, whose backbone is agriculture, once known for its indigenous plants and animals now faces many difficulties in dealing with these invasive species. Maintenance and management strategies of these species require a lot of capital in terms of purchasing inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, among others,” the petition reads in part.

The petitioners say with the worsening climate change, the introduction of one season fast maturing plants has made it difficult for farmers to plan. They argue that GMOs, which they claim are invasive species onto the continent, cannot withstand climate change and weather vagaries and therefore increase food insecurity on the continent.

“As earlier stated, these species require many inputs in terms of chemicals like fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, processed feeds, and vaccines, among others that are all expensive for the ordinary African farmers,” they add in the petition.

The petitioners also contend that in Africa, more than 85 percent of grass root communities heavily rely on rain-fed agriculture and that the ‘invasive species’ are not resistant and not compatible with the local environmental conditions.

“As such, they require effective irrigation as an alternative, which is extremely expensive for grass root communities. Whereas these GMOs were initially introduced as a solution to enhance agricultural productivity and food security, there has been a concerning trend of a financial strain on communities due to the high costs associated with these invasive species,” the petition states.

“Buying seasonal seeds for planting and agricultural inputs to manage these species among others is not sustainable and oftentimes leads to significant drain of limited financial resources within the communities. The local farmers are often compelled to divert funds from other essential needs such as education, healthcare and basic infrastructure development,” the petition adds.

They also say there is an increased outbreak of pests and disease, which is attributed to the increase in temperatures caused by the changing climate. Unfortunately, they say, GMOs are prone to attack by these pests and diseases.

They also say the GMOs present huge health risks to the local communities, who are illiterate and do not understand the precautions to follow while using these pesticides and herbicides.

This, according to the petition, exposes the users to high risks of contracting diseases through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact that can lead to acute and chronic health related issues.

“These include respiratory diseases, skin irritations, neurological disorders, and even certain types of cancers in the end. Most grass root women are also worried about the consumption of these genetically modified organisms since they are mainly treated with chemicals; others are injected with hormones to increase their shelf-life spans,” the petition states.

Source: Daily Monitor

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NEBBI: Livestock disease kills 14,000 goats



Nebbi, Uganda. The Nebbi district veterinary department is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a disease which is highly fatal in cattle and other hoofed animals.

At least 14,650 goats have died and 53,397 goats have been infected following the outbreak of the disease which was first reported in 2022.

According to the local authorities, the disease has since spread to a cross all the sub counties like Erussi, Nebbi ,Alala Jupangira Atego ,Ndhew and Kucwiny as well as Nebbi Municipality.

Moreen Awekonimungu, a livestock farmer in Nebbi Municipality says that she has so far lost three goats since the outbreak was reported a year ago. She further notes that an infected animal dies within two weeks after presenting with signs and symptoms of the disease.

The Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) is an infectious disease caused by mycoplasmas and it mostly affects ruminants.

The diseases are transmitted through direct contact and inhalation of droplets from infected animals. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, coughing, difficult respiration, edema, and lung tissue abnormalities.

Emmauel Ongeitho, the Nebbi Municipality assistant veterinary officer blames the persistence of the diseases on the poor attitude of farmers against vaccination of their livestock. According to Ongeitho several farmers shunned the mass vaccination exercise which resulted in a spike in livestock deaths.

According to Dr. William Abedkane, the principal veterinary Officer for Nebbi district, the outbreak which started last year has been killing goats silently since farmers are hesitant to report the cases to the veterinary officers in their respective sub counties.

Abedkane further appealed to farmers to pay attention to animal health just like they do with their own health.

According to information from the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the outbreak of Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP disease was first confirmed in Uganda in 1995 in Karamoja region.

Original Source: URA Via The Independent.

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