“My coffee farm is now performing much better and my family members come to see what they can do to improve their yields,”

Stella Nakaggawa proclaimed as she motioned everyone to weave further into the maze of coffee branches. Her farm is exemplary in Luwero District (central Uganda) where Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are implementing and validating the Climate Smart Investment Pathway also known as Stepwise.

Above: Stella proudly showcasing her flourishing coffee.

The group visiting her farm were from the Feed the Future Alliance for Resilient Coffee (ARC) Project. ARC is a consortium of seven organizations; HRNS, IITA, World Coffee Research, Conservation International, Sustainable Food Lab, Root Capital and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who collectively aim to make coffee farming and sourcing climate smart in four prominent coffee growing countries; Uganda, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. HRNS leads the consortium and together the organizations cover three thematic areas, Climate Risk Analysis, Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) and Testing & Research.

Three out of the seven ARC consortium members participated in the knowledge sharing joint field visit – HRNS, World Coffee Research and IITA. These organizations are the acting consortium members in Uganda. The partners embarked on the trip to Luwero and Kasese with the objective of strengthening their collaborations and getting a deeper understanding of each other’s climate smart interventions and project activities.

A  tangible sense of pride emanated from Stella as she spoke about the benefits of being able to host the Stepwise program on her farm. The knowledge and skills she has received has enabled her to be an effective coffee farmer and train fellow farmers in her community. As Stepwise practically demonstrates CSA practices by breaking them down into simple subsets, each stage can be applied incrementally according to farmers’ financial means meaning it is affordable and feasible to implement. The CSA practices included in the Stepwise stages being implemented in Luwero are; weeding, de-suckering, pruning, manure application, mulching, fertilizer application and pesticide application. These practices strengthen the farmers’ resilience against changing climatic and environmental conditions.

Above: Step 1 Practices (Control) i.e. Weeding and De-suckering.

Above: Step 2 Practices i.e. Weeding, De-suckering, Pruning and Manure Application.

Above: Step 3 Practices i.e. Weeding, De-suckering, Pruning, Manure Application and Mulching.

Above: Step 4 Practices i.e. Weeding, De-suckering, Pruning, Manure Application, Mulching, Fertilizer Application and Pesticide Application.

Prior to Luwero, the group from ARC visited World Coffee Research’s project sites in Kasese, Rubirizi and Rukungiri districts. A scenic but tiresome drive on bumpy and winding roads brought the team to a total of eight coffee farms in Western Uganda where World Coffee Research is using a tool referred to as On-Farm Technology Trials (OFTT).  

Above: A proud farmer who’s farm hosts the OFTT.

“The OFTT program aims to bridge the gap between subsistence-level coffee farming and professional coffee farming for smallholder farmers,”

stated Maureen Namugalu an agronomist from World Coffee Research. The program was designed to test a combination of climate smart agricultural practices alongside improved coffee varieties.

The OFTT’s visited are under an existing partnership with Great Lakes Coffee (GLC) and Kawacom where the following CSA practices are implemented; mulch as soil conservation, use of banana trees as temporary shade, improved coffee spacing, fertilization and planting grass on bunds of trenches as another soil conservation practice. The objective is to identify which combination of practices and varieties are most profitable to the farmers.

Above: OFTT Control.

Above: OFTT Treatment i.e. Mulch as soil conservation.

Above: OFTT Treatment i.e. Banana trees as temporary shade.

The three coffee varieties that are being comparably tested in the south western region where the OFTT’s visited are located are Batian (regional variety), SL 28 (country variety) and SL 14 (local variety specifically for Rwenzori region). The experiments are currently 8-9 months old so it is still too early to identify differences between the improved varieties yet.

At the end of the joint field trip, the agronomists from the three organizations had shared numerous observations which ignited solutions to some of their on-farm implementation challenges. The trip was successful in many ways and will enable the three organizations to leverage on each other’s strengths, enhance their synergy and ultimately continue to improve the livelihoods of coffee farmers in Uganda.

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