In Mount Elgon, a region in southeastern Uganda, a new public-private partnership is helping smallholder coffee farmers adopt climate-friendly farming methods in order to increase their yield.
The region is known for the production of Arabica beans, a high-quality coffee bean that only grows in certain conditions. The Mount Elgon region is ideal for the bean, because of its rich volcanic soil, high altitude and good rainfall. However, farmers have only been able to produce one-third of the potential yield in recent years because of climate change and poor farming techniques. As temperatures rise, so does the number of pests and diseases, and the area has become prone to landslides because of an increase in heavy rainfalls, deforestation and uninformed farming practices.
This new project, initiated by the Welsh Assembly Government and funded by the Cardiff-based Waterloo Foundation, is helping farmers cope with the climate changes. The project has initiated a pioneering new approach to farming coffee beans and has introduced techniques such as using shade trees for the coffee plants, organic compost, better soil management, proper spacing between coffee trees, pruning, control of pests and the recycling of plastic. Together, these initiatives are helping to double the output of coffee. Simon Hotchkin, Sustainability of Harrogate, said, “We think there’s potential to double the output of coffee even from the best-managed farms we’ve seen. Most of these farmers have very little influence over the international coffee markets, so the thing that they can control and influence is the output and the livelihood that they generate from coffee.”
The project is also providing funding for new nurseries that over time will create over one million new trees, as part of a three-year climate change action plan. The trees will give shade to the coffee plants, over time will yield fruit, and some will be harvested for timber and firewood. The project hopes that in the future, consumers will be willing to pay more for the higher quality Arabica coffee bean, which in turn will help growers in Uganda to continue adapting to global warming.
– Chloe Isacke