Improving Small Scale Household Coffee Processing and Production in Uganda
The Kween, Kapchorwa and Bukwo districts in Eastern Uganda, on the slopes of Mount Elgon, are among the top producers of coffee in Uganda. But the combination of hilly terrain, rainfall patterns, and unsustainable practices is degrading the environment. Aidenvironment is working with local stakeholders on an ambitious circular agriculture program to restore the balance.
The combination of steep hill slopes and seasonal rainfall in the Mount Elgon area lead to constant water imbalances. During the rainy season, high runoff from the hills pollutes water sources and causes extreme flooding of cropland downstream. In addition, deforestation, poor agricultural methods, and uncontrolled withdrawal of water from streams degrade the environment and preclude good catchment management. The majority of farmers grow coffee and have not taken up practices of water and soil conservation within the production process; e.g. reusing the wastewater generated from the pulping as a fertilizer on the plantations.
Working under its RAIN brand, Aidenvironment plans to introduce a circular agricultural economy among smallholder coffee farmers in the area. The program seeks to increase household income through certification and market linkages, increase youth employment, and improve catchment management through sustainable landscape management interventions. In the period from March to May 2019, Aidenvironment East Africa conducted a study spearheaded by two interns (Cheptoek Dismas and Sophie Brevoord) in the targeted areas to assess the current water situation in the area.
Their findings indicate that farmers who practice homestead coffee processing need a lot of water to de-pulp and wash their coffee, which in most cases is not readily available in the dry season. A few farmers have piped water at their homesteads, but the majority have to obtain their water from rivers, wells, springs, and community taps, which may be a long way from their homes. They are forced to have family members carry water to their homesteads or use hired labor, which makes coffee processing costly and severely depresses the returns they make on their coffee. Some farmers even resort to carrying their coffee to the water sources for washing, but they pour the wastewater directly in to running water, adversely affecting the quality of the water.
Providing farmers with rainwater harvesting tanks can help improve their access to water for coffee processing and as well reducing catchment problems.