Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Coffee farmers in Rwenzori region want the government to exclude coffee from the enterprises to be catered for under the Parish Development Model-PDM program. They argue that PDM is meant to help elevate poor people out of poverty and it’s important to recognize that most coffee farmers are well established in their business.
Coffee farmers fear that any setbacks in the PDM will have devastating effects on coffee and disrupt the national economy. They say the delayed operationalization of the program in the region has already affected their production because Uganda Coffee Development Authority-UCDA has since halted the distribution of seedlings and plantlets until the program is rolled out.
They now want the autonomous operations of UCDA maintained to advance coffee production. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched the much-publicized Parish Development Model-PDM earlier this year in Kibuku district with the government banking on lifting 17.5 million Ugandans in 3.5 million households out of poverty.
According to the Ministry of Local Government, prioritized commodities under PDM include coffee, cotton, cocoa, cassava, tea, vegetable oils, maize, rice, sugar cane, fish, dairy, beef, bananas, beans, avocado, shea, cashew, and macadamia nuts.
Gilbert Rubaihayo, the LCV chairperson of Kyenjojo district and a commercial coffee farmer, says that coffee farmers are economically established and there is no justifiable reason to incorporate coffee under the 18 product categories under PDM.
He fears that like many programs that have failed, if the PDM fails, even the already established commercial enterprises like coffee will be affected.
Rubaihayo says pushing coffee farmers under PDM could see some of them hijacking the program to benefit from the seed capital and divert it from its original purpose of helping the poor.
Rogers Nuwagaba, the general secretary Kamwenge coffee farmers cooperative, says that coffee production should be left under UCDA, arguing that farmers have not been prepared well on how the program will work. Nuwagaba says that with or without government support, there is no poor person who ventures into coffee farming.
Gladys Biira, a farmer from Kaswa in Bwesumbu sub county in Kasese, says that she also fears that coffee production could be derailed by actors in local governments who turn village projects into personal development resources. She feels coffee farmers can ably be assisted by the government through UCDA.
Lilian Kaliso Masika from Kihondo sub county who joined the coffee businesses in 2016, says that they instead want the government to increase funding to UCDA to improve extension services. She fears possible abuse of the scheme since it has not been piloted to first learn lessons.
But Emmanuel Tumwezire, the UCDA region manager Rwenzori, says that they will continue serving all farmers but prioritize those who are joining the enterprise.