Earning money from coffee tourism

Saturday April 17 2021
seeds03pix

Joseph Kasekende attends to a coffee tree in his plantation. PHOTO/MICHEAL J SSALI

By Michael J Ssali

For Joseph Kasekende of Bunyonyi Village, Miti Parish, Kalisizo Rural Sub-county, Kyotera District, coffee farming is a four-fold enterprise. His first enterprise is conventional coffee farming which involves good coffee plantation sustenance practices, harvesting, drying and selling. 
His second enterprise is the coffee nursery where he produces cloned Robusta coffee plantlets for sale to fellow farmers. 
His third enterprise is coffee tourism which involves hosting visitors, some of whom come from overseas to see how coffee is grown. His fourth enterprise, which is still in its infancy, involves making and packaging coffee powder that can be sold to the many visitors to his farm.

Farming group 
Kasekende is an opinion leader in his home area and he is one of the founders of Miti Farmers Field School, whose members meet regularly to discuss farming issues and to learn about new agricultural innovations. 

“I am not the chairman since I think it is better for me to be just a member and perhaps to play an advisory role,” he told Seeds of Gold. The group also has a savings and credit component. They market their coffee collectively as a group and recently they built a large store complete with a concrete yard on which to dry coffee. 

The group further has a community coffee demonstration garden measuring about an acre where farmers are encouraged to go and learn about coffee growing best practices.

How he started farming 
Kasekende, who is a trained agriculturist and an extension service worker, went into the coffee nursery operation business in 1995 after undergoing a course in Robusta coffee cloning at Ntaawo Agricultural Research Institute in Mukono District. 
“Back then we prepared the varieties A, B, C, D, and the others that are now being slowly wiped out by the incurable coffee wilt disease. My first nursery was at N’goma Village, Nabigasa Sub-county, in Kyotera District,” says Kasekende. 
The business proved to be quite profitable and by 1998 he had earned enough money to purchase the 50 acres of land at Binyonyi Village where his present farm is located.

Robusta coffee nursery 
At Binyonyi he has established a flourishing Robusta coffee nursery for KR Robusta coffee plantlets which are resistant to the dreaded coffee wilt disease. He prepares thousands of plantlets and the nursery attracts customers from all over the central region and beyond.
Apart from operating the coffee nursery he has been growing cloned Robusta coffee since 1998 when he settled at his present farm. 
He has 12 acres under coffee from which he enjoys an annual harvest of between 150 and 200 gunny bags of dried kiboko coffee (dried coffee cherries). Since he is also a natural environment conservationist some four or five acres of the land is a natural tropical forest while the rest is occupied by banana plantation, orange fleshed bio-fortified potato production, animal husbandry (cows and pigs) and cassava.

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The trick 
“To earn more money from the crop we have agreed as members of Miti Farmers Field School to sell our coffee together as a group. We all grow cloned Robusta coffee whose berries are of uniform size,” Kasekende told Seeds of Gold. 
“We ensure that all of us pick red ripe coffee, and that we dry it well on clean surfaces. We then bargain for higher price for our crop and sell to the highest bidder. We already have our own store and we are planning to purchase our own hulling machine so that we sell FAQ (kase) bean which always attracts higher prices,” he says.

Innovation 
Since he also keeps pigs and cattle, Kasekende has minimal need for synthetic fertilisers on his farm. “When we sell our coffee we get back the coffee husks for use as manure. And in my case I use the coffee husks as bedding in the pig sty where it stays for about a year before I take it into the coffee and banana plantations. We also make use of cow dung to produce bio-gas and later we apply the slurry from the biogas tank to the crops. Any cow dung that is not used for bio-gas production is directly applied either in the coffee or in the banana plantations,” says Kasekende.
His coffee plantation also has lots of traditional shade trees. Some of them are fruit trees while others, such as ejjirikiti, are preserved for cultural purposes. 

Agri-tourism 
The plantation is actually designed to be a tourist attraction and it is already attracting visitors from overseas who want to see how coffee is grown.
According to Kasekende when the visitors arrive at the farm, they are offered dry cooked coffee cherries to eat as per the Buganda traditional practice of welcoming visitors.

The visitors are then taken round the coffee nursery to see how the coffee plantlets are prepared. They are then taken to an area on the farm where some holes have been prepared for planting coffee.

The visitors are guided to plant the coffee plantlets brought from the nursery. After going through the planting process the visitors are then taken for a walk in the coffee plantation where they also participate in picking ripe coffee and putting the cherries in a woven basket.  “In any well maintained coffee plantation there are always trees that have ripe coffee any time of the year,” Kasekende confirms.

The visitors are also taken to the natural tropical forest down the valley and quite close to the coffee plantation where they may view some birds and flying insects. 

There are large beautiful stones where nearly always they take photographs. The visitors also get to learn about the cultural importance of the shade trees growing in the coffee plantation. 
They get to know, for example, why the ejjirikiti is like the incinerator where dead animals such as dogs are disposed of.  They get to know that the mutuba tree was the source of bark cloth which was worn before the arrival of cotton and woollen clothes. 

Upon coming out of the plantation the visitors participate in wet processing of the coffee that they pick from the plantation. There is a manual wet coffee processing machine to do the work at Kasekende’s farm. There are also always already dried coffee berries that the visitors roast in a container placed over a bio-gas stove. The visitors then pound the roasted coffee berries in a traditional wooden mortar. The visitors then boil their own coffee to drink.

Value addition 
The fourth enterprise on Kasekende’s coffee farm is packing coffee that is sold to the visitors. A tourist who has been at Kasekende’s farm and stayed at the nearby Nabisere Hotel in Kalisizo Town has written on the hotel’s website: “The farmers around MITI village organised themselves into a group to share best farming practice and improve their bargaining power with ‘middlemen’ by selling their produce collectively. The group now offers a chance for tourists to visit the farm to see coffee production from the plant to the cup.” 

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