Final assault on coffee farming

Ivan Bwowe 

What you need to know:

The blame cast onto particular individuals involved should be directed to their contribution to this final assault without forgetting the buildup.  It has been a long plan.

The fight against the coffee farmers and the coffee industry is just entering the final assault by the powers that be. In a small village (big in our hearts) called Kamaggwa-kalisizo in Kyotera District, my journey, knowledge and life began.  Coffee being at the centre, through coffee farming, trading, processing and importing. I am a true story of a coffee product. However, the story is not done yet. I am still a living story and so are many loved ones.  A call to my mother is always an encouraging one, “Ndi munimilo” loosely translated, I am in the Garden. To many of us with a coffee heritage, that means get off the phone immediately unless it is too urgent.

The plight of the work of my mother and many in the coffee business have been under threat by this government for a very long time. Now that I am a coffee product, I wish to use the education coffee gave me to push back on the fight against coffee farmers, the coffee industry, financial independence of many, financial security of many, our heritage and the future of millions.To refresh your mind a little, Coffee farming meant financial stability and wealth. Popular sayings of “mwanyi Zzabala”, “Enkumbi Telimba” were popular from Kikagati to across all trade routes and even crossing borders-Mwanza.
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The coffee industry was the pride of Uganda and it was booming. Farmers in cooperative unions had fair prices and ready markets, many were employed. Private processing plants were in business and the trickle down effect was felt even to us the little ones that used to pick coffee. The memories of buying my first disco watch from the proceeds of picking one basket of coffee are still vivid as if it was yesterday. Yet that was in the 1990s.

I remember my Grandfather, Ssalongo Joseph Mukasa Kaggwa (R.I.P), complaining about the trend of events and government policies on coffee. Fast forward, he lost his coffee drier, one of the modern technologies of the time under guard of the army, I do not know to whom in particular to date.  The coffee based cooperative societies and factories were dismantled including one in my beautiful hometown of Kalisizo. It is a ghost of its former glory. People protested the dismantling of “Union” but under the watch of the Army the powers that be succeeded. Many never recovered and some died away in depression. The coffee Marketing Board somehow vanished still under the watch of this “people centred government”. But some coffee worriers persisted to this very day, my mother inclusive. 

Systematically, there has been a well organised plan to diminish the importance of coffee farming by making it rather less profitable. This marked the introduction of Vanilla and Moringa later. A closer look at things informs me that the people responsible for purportedly promoting the coffee industry now controlled the Vanilla and Moringa market then. Perhaps the worst deed was to encourage people to cut down coffee trees to plant Vanilla and Moringa. Some were trapped and shortly after, the prices of the Vanilla and Moringa collapsed.

Government then purported to boost coffee farming through NAADS, Operation Wealth Creation, creation of UCDA and other initiatives.  The Coffee Bill of 2018 was passed in 2020 amidst protests from almost all farmers. This Act almost makes coffee farming impossible or criminal. Just about a month ago, board room decision makers drove Uganda out of the International Coffee Organisation amidst protests from the farmers.

Then the government proudly signed a coffee agreement with Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited- UVVCCL, a privately owned firm to process and export Uganda’s coffee.  The terms are of course ridiculous. Again, it was signed without the input of the farmers or other stakeholders and now the solicitor general is distancing himself from it. This is not a coincidence.

I am aware that the government has had a problem negotiating in the best for the citizens, a character that stretches from 1986 to date, Barter Trade Deals, Oil deals, Loans etc. But this agreement is just the final assault on coffee farming by ordinary citizens. We see the bad faith through your actions.  

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