Sustainability of the coffee sector
The coffee sector is one of sensitivity and interconnectedness because of its far reaching impacts on both humankind and biodiversity. Its sustainability therefore takes into consideration all the stress factors that affect the economy, smallholder farmer wellbeing and the natural environment in general. Examples of such factors include pests and diseases, deforestation, unfair farm gate prices and weather uncertainties.
The undisputed fact is that the production of high quality coffees requires specific soil conditions, amounts of sun exposure and generally weather conditions. This renders the sector very sensitive to changes in the environment issues that the smallholder farmers and large estate owners can’t single handedly prevent but can reduce its impact on their livelihoods by employing a range of approaches to increase their farms’ resilience.
Most of the farmers in Uganda and the East African community have not been equipped with the appropriate knowledge on the extent of the challenge which makes their farms vulnerable to the arising consequences. This therefore calls for farmer trainings on climate smart coffee farming practices that would enable them to better adapt to climate change and protect the environment. For example, farmers need to be trained on how to mulch and shade so as to reduce plant and soil temperatures which are of high vitality in the region where they rise and threaten coffee productivity and quality. Minimum tillage and planting of cover crops as ways of reducing soil water evaporation. Composting serves to retain the soil texture, moisture and also reduce on the need for artificial fertilizers whose production emits greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Farmers also need to receive trainings on how to plant vetiver grass as a way of mitigating soil erosion and water purification. Use of compost manure also helps to reduce on the farm waste.
The above practices will not only lead to improved yields central to increasing farmers’ incomes but also increase the volume of coffee the wet mill requires so as to run to an accepted profit level. This translates to increasing the local domestic consumption which in turn leads to a rise in the revenue collected by the government in form of taxes,
The best challenge for domestic coffee consumption in African Great lakes Region is Affordability and Availability of coffee to the local farmers and the surrounding population.
At Desuzacoffees we believe in empowering the small holder farmers to access both local and international markets directly through micro cooperative.
However much environmental sustainability is more emphasized, economic sustainability of the coffee sector is an issue that can not be swept under the carpet. Economic sustainability takes into account the wellbeing of the various players in the value chain, particularly the farmers who are the weakest in the link. Put more precisely, the smallholder farmer in the rural area will strive to meet social and environmental goals when he or she is able to favorably compete with other market participants and achieve prices that cover his or her production costs and also allow him to earn a reasonable profit margin. This is what needs to be established in Uganda if coffee investment and production are to be stepped up.
This too calls for a change in policy as the current trends glorify the market intermediaries and the speciality industry with minimal consideration of the efforts put in by the smallholder farmer who solely relies on the coffees for livelihood. This will involve building new business models so as to attract the financial and credit giving institutions to consider invest in the sector. This will avail capital to the potential investors who ultimately contribute to an increase in yield hence growth of the sector.
“We hope to see the day when farmers under micro co- operative society roast ,pack ,market and do quality control for specialty coffee directly on the farm hence changing the narrative of consumer is king to farmer is king” therefore shifting specialty coffee consumption back to the origin (specialty coffee cellers right at the origin)
Conclusively, the coffee sector in Uganda requires a new lease of life; better policies that are realistic within the coffee growing regions and support from the government given the fact that coffee is one of the main crops that have helped alleviate the masses from dire poverty. This will give room for new investors coming on board hence contributing to the promotion of the crop and the growth of the sector.