Transforming Mindsets to Achieve Sustainable Livelihoods
When development projects come to an end, final Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is done to prove the impact of the projects. However, many may argue that statistics do not fully quantify the extent to which lives are changed. They do not tell you how much it means to parents to be able to send their children to university, when it was something, they never dreamed possible. This is only truly expressed by the project participants.
Since the Uganda Coffee Agronomy Training (UCAT) project came to an end in October 2021, many of its participants have testified to how it has changed their lives. The four-year project was implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) and reached over 22,000 households in the district of Kakumiro, Kyenjojo, Kibaale and Kagadi with knowledge on improved coffee management. The region was selected because many of its coffee farmers had previously abandoned the cash crop to focus on seasonal crops like maize, beans, and bananas which bring quicker returns.
Why, if we may ask, had the farmers in Western Uganda deserted such a lucrative cash crop? The simple answer is because they didn’t have any knowledge about how to grow and manage it. This, coupled with poor coffee prices and increased incidents of pests and diseases led many farmers to give up on growing coffee for income. But since UCAT began in 2018, things have changed.
Through a two-year Agronomy Training Program, HRNS’ dedicated field officers guided farmers through a step-by-step curriculum on how to improve coffee production systems. Between 2018 and 2020 more than 12,000 farming households in Kakumiro were taken through the coffee management curriculum in theory and practice. In 2019, another cohort of 10,000 households in the remaining three districts were enrolled in the program.
The farmers who took part in the training were empowered to not only rehabilitate their coffee farms but also expand them on unused land. As a result, their livelihoods were significantly improved because of the increased income from coffee. Farmers like John Selimu testified to the benefits of the training on their lives.
Back then, I used to harvest only 8-10 bags of coffee when I did not really care for it. But when HRNS arrived, I don’t get less than 30 bags. The other thing I have achieved, I have built a house which I share with my son. I have another son in university that I pay tuition for.
Today, 80% of the project participants acknowledge an increase in their household income thanks to coffee. Additionally, 91% of the project participants report that coffee is now their leading cash crop. The project’s interventions have become sustainable. The trained farmers have become trainers, and some are now Community Based Facilitators. In this role, they roll out local government programs for farmers. They also spread their knowledge about coffee management and encourage young people to become the drivers of the future coffee sector.
Over the four years of project implementation, HRNS has worked together with the local governments in the four districts to empower smallholder farming families through knowledge and government programs. These opportunities have enabled the project participants to sustainably improve their livelihoods and resurrect the farming of coffee in Western Uganda.