Building Coffee Farmers Alliances in Uganda
Coffee smallholders in Uganda face numerous challenges that severely limit their development potential. Primarily, they lack access to quality farmer education, and financial, marketing and value addition services. The absence of organizational structures also prevents farmer empowerment. At about 350 kg green coffee per hectare for arabica and about 600 kg green coffee per hectare for robusta, yield levels are consequently very low. Most farmers have little choice but to sell their coffee at the farm gate directly to middlemen at the lowest possible value.
The Building Coffee Farmers Alliances in Uganda (CFAU) project is implemented through a bottom-up approach that is fully participatory, business oriented and integrated from production to marketing. Project activities are geared toward a step-by-step improvement of coffee production and of farmer access to services and to coffee markets. The project helps establish business oriented farmer organizations that are transparent, professionally managed and provide the services farmers need. To sustain the benefits of the project and encourage further growth, the Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance (UCFA) was established as an apex organization catering for the interests of more than 50,000 farmers that are organized in numerous first and second tier organizations as part of UCFA. The structure will be further strengthened for professionalizing its operations and services offered to farmer members while being open to raise its membership over time.
Through their farmer organizations, farmers now have access to regular Farmer Field School trainings where they can improve their agricultural skills, process their coffee and market it in bulk directly to exporters, and gain better access to agricultural inputs and financing for investments. A thorough gender intervention encourages household members to engage in joint planning and decision making, and to share resources more equitably. Overall, they become more competitive and gain a stronger position in the value chain. The most advanced farmers have more than doubled their yields and significantly expanded their coffee plots.