ISAAC NUWAMANYA: Gen. Saleh, Uganda’s sweet coffee cup

I am hoping that you have a wonderful moment and health as you enjoy the Coffee drink. You know it is always better to drink coffee for the betterment of our health.

Research indicates that 400 mg of caffeine per day — the equivalent of 4 cups (945 ml) of coffee — is safe for most healthy adults. I recommend every Ugandan to drink at least 4 cups of coffee a day because have the best organic coffee in the whole world.

Our coffee exports increased by 28% as of December 2021, I thank all Ugandans for collective efforts that made us achieve this big success.

Meanwhile, we need to take a look at the key players in this achievement. A major player is Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) which was launched by President Museveni in 2013 as an intervention to facilitate national socio-economic transformation, with a focus on raising household incomes and wealth creation by transforming subsistence farmers into commercial farmers to end poverty.

Since then, the program has remained key in alleviating poverty in the country by coordinating all Government agencies in the same line.

By the time its launch, Uganda had 68% subsistence farmers who were only working for the stomach and they were not close to the money economy. Today as of 2022, just within 7 years, this has reduced to only 39%. Big thanks and credit to OWC and the strategic thinker and planner who happens to be the Chief Coordinator , Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh.

In 2016, Gen. Saleh initiated a demand-driven approach taking research as a key player in this. He engaged a team of researchers from Mbarara University of Science and Technology who made research about the Role of Credit Facilities in Coffee Production. During the same research, it was noted that farmers had limited access to agriculture inputs like fertilizers, extension services, quality seedlings, amongst several other factors of production.

Gen. Saleh triggered a covert team that visited several nursery beds of coffee without the knowledge of nursery bed operators. This was aimed at ascertaining that the said quantities by coffee nursery bed operators were real and factual. Results indicated that over 30million coffee seedlings were available and ready for planting by 2016 in South Western Uganda, 60million in the East, 45million for Central and 20million for the North. This didn’t stop at that. The same team ascertained the demand, and indirectly participated in sensitizing and mobilizing farmers.

Later, it was found that suppliers would dump the seedlings since the supplies would be made without creating enough demand.

However, this time, demand had outweighed the UCDA budgeting. This triggered the OWC Chief Coordinator to order the operators to distribute the seedlings to meet farmers’ precise demand. It was done and this was a great success ever.

As of today 2022, the planted seedlings are bearing fruits and this is a contributing factor to the increase of coffee production and exports in the country.

 OWC made further engagements by convening meetings with parish chiefs, extension workers, and the political side- call them politicians, as well as religious leaders, bank managers, and several others.

This enhanced farmers’ training on how to cut old plants such that they generate fresh strong buds that would in turn yield more than the very old ones. This was now led by UCDA, that went ahead to take the OWC advice and started distributing free fertilizers to coffee farmers.

Along the process, OWC engaged the Microfinance Support Centre that eventually launched the Agro-input product loan for coffee farmers where a farmer borrows capital to look after his or her coffee plantation, and starts paying back at harvest time. This also helped in boosting coffee production in Uganda.

This as well came with the engagements between OWC and coffee processors (value addition practitioners). This enabled more consumption of Uganda coffee by Ugandans, hence stabilizing coffee markets that caught eyes of many farmers to join the coffee sector.

OWC has been key in fostering more development of both the coffee sector and general economy. Twesigye Godwin from Rwentojo Village, Ruhanga Parish in Itojo, Ntungamo District who benefited and planted 1, 000 coffee seedlings is now a happy farmer who is harvesting as per photos below.

OWC should be a core supervisory entity to the Parish Development Model since it has proved that it does that role better than any other agency.

The author is an ardent coffee farmer and promoter and holds Masters of Science in Information Systems

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