General Description
Relationship
Agreement and Value created
Safeguards
Mission March 2010

Uganda
Uganda is a nation in East Africa, with a population of around 28 million. Free from British rule (the British Empire) since 1962, it is now a Democratic Republic with a non-partypolitical system. GDP per capita in 2008 was estimated at $ 1.203,00, putting it 160th in a ranking of 181 countries, therefore among the countries in the lower rank. Taking into account the Human Development Index, it is at the position of 157 out of 182.

Coffee in Uganda

Coffee exports are an important part of the country's economy, amounting to 27% of total exports, and Uganda is internationally considered an important coffee producer, exporting around 3 million bags of coffee per year.3 To understand its importance, we only need to consider that there are around 2,800,000 people (500,000 families) who rely on coffee production and exportation to survive. Almost 100% of coffee products are exported, as Ugandans usually drink tea.
The most common coffee variety is the coffea canephora (robusta coffee), which makes up 90% of the country's total production and is farmed in a radius of 300 km around Lake Victoria. It is commonly believed that robusta coffee is indigenous of Uganda, when some wild plants of this variety were found near to the Lake Victoria in 1860. The majority of Ugandan robusta coffee is a "natural" coffee, obtained using the "dry" method, but there also exists some "washed" coffee, obtained with the "wet" method. Obviously, the higher costs and organisational requirements necessary for the wet method encourage people toward the production of natural coffee, obtained using the cheaper dry method. Coffea arabica (arabica coffee) is not indigenous of the country, but it was introduced from Malawi at the beginning of the 20th century. It is cultivated mainly in the regions of Mount Elgon and in the west. It is possible to find both washed (called Bugisu and Wugars) and natural (Drugars) Arabica coffees.

The geographical position of the country, stretched across the equator, allows for coffee to be harvested in two different seasons.

Coffee farmers

The high rank of Uganda among the most important coffee producing countries does notmean that Ugandan coffee farmers are well-off. On the contrary, a Ugandan farmer lives in a perennial condition of poverty, due to the competitive prices paid for coffee on an international scale, but - also and above all - because the wealth generated by its coffee is plundered by many middlemen, who are able to exploit the farmers' ignorance andfinancial weakness.

In fact, coffee increases a lot in value as it passes through the many rings of the coffee chain, moving from the initial state of red cherry (Kiboko in Luganda language) through the drying, hulling, selection and bag-filling stages until it is ready to be exported. Farmers, however, cannot usually go beyond the state of kiboko and fail to get a bigger share of the acquired value. This happens because of the large number of stages in the production process, as can be seen below.

farming families

The middlemen do their best to stop the farmers expanding their business. Due to the need for money, most farmers accept loans from middlemen, money which they receive as soon as the coffee tree blossoms, promising to sell the coffee when it is harvested. Doing so, farmers not only sell their coffee, but any possibility of getting a bigger share of the value generated from it.

Such a situation not only creates hard living conditions for the farmers, but also a marked degradation of coffee quality. It is understandable that farmers have little interest in taking care of such a poorly paid product - they pick the cherries without much care as to whether they are ripe or not and do not protect them from moulding. As a result, many unripe, fermented, rotten beans will find their way into the coffee and will reduce its quality, as every European roaster knows only too well.

Role of NUCAFE

NUCAFE, the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises, has been working since 1995 to represent farmers' interest, to empower them and improve their living conditions.
In order to improve the farmers' conditions, NUCAFE works to enforce its own "Farmer Ownership Model", which farmers have to adhere to in order to organise and cover as many roles as possible in the coffee value chain. If the farmer fills more roles, it allows him to get a bigger share of the value produced and therefore to get more wealth. NUCAFE does not limit its intervention to the financial and organisational aspects, but extends its action to social problems. With its "gender equity program" NUCAFE has been trying for years to improve working relationships between husbands, wives and children within farming families.

NUCAFE has achieved many results in the past years, but is still facing many challenges. It is obvious that NUCAFE has to fight against the many middlemen who, having exploited the situation for years, work hard to prevent its efforts. On top of that, the many existing obstacles between farmers and exporters and the rigidity of international commercial relationships, make it virtually impossible for NUCAFE to permit farmers to directly export their goods.


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