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Innovation and inclusiveness wins continental recognition for Uganda’s coffee sector

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The driving force behind Uganda’s National Coffee Policy and the rise in coffee exports in recent years – the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) – has been recognised for its efforts, winning a continental award for agriculture. NUCAFE is also known for its development of an innovative Farmer Ownership Model, which allows farmers to retain greater ownership of their coffee during the value addition process and receive a higher income.

In June 2017, Uganda exported over 430,000 sixty-kilo bags of coffee which, according to the state-run Uganda Coffee Development Authority, accounts for a 62% increase from June 2016. In the last decade, with the exception of 2015, Uganda has been the leading African coffee exporter to Europe and the country has maintained its position as Africa’s second largest coffee producer with close to 4 million bags exported annually, second only to Ethiopia with 6 million bags.

On winning the CEO Global award for the agriculture sector in Africa, Joseph Nkandu, NUCAFE executive director told CTA, “The systematic impact NUCAFE has had on the coffee sector in Uganda, including influencing the formulation of the National Coffee Policy, was behind the winning of the award for this organisation.”

Traditionally in Uganda, coffee farmers have been price takers, selling their unprocessed coffee beans for whatever price a buyer would offer. However, under the Farmer Ownership Model, recognised as a CTA Top 20 Innovation that benefits smallholders, farmers join together, form partnerships with exporters and roasters, and take on several roles (including processing and transporting the beans/product) within the value chain. Under this inclusive model, NUCAFE and its member associations do not buy the farmers’ coffee, but rather provide them with affordable services (secondary processing, training and marketing) allowing the farmers to retain ownership of their coffee and earn a higher return from the value-added product. Coffee processors have also benefited through a new, win-win relationship with farmers whereby, instead of buying raw produce from farmers at low prices and selling it on to the next player in the chain, they offer their value addition expertise and facilities to farmers at a fee. In doing so, processors enjoy higher operational capacity of their processing equipment and increased revenue.

Engaging in more profitable parts of the value chain has not only increased farmer incomes, but is also challenging and reshaping power relations within the chain. For instance, farmers have been motivated to invest in developing their entrepreneurial and leadership skills including in policy advocacy. The farmer ownership model was incorporated within the National Coffee Policy, launched by the Ugandan government in December 2013.

At present NUCAFE is benefitting from CTA support in profiling its members and establishing a functional spatial database. In the framework of the project, NUCAFE mobilised, equipped and trained young enumerators who use advanced technology to gather geo-referenced information about individual farms and channel data it to a central database where these are cross-checked and analysed. In the framework of the same project, NUCAFE is experimenting also with drone technology for counting plants and assessing the health of the crop. 

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  • National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises
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