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    Absence Of Regulations Failing Tea Production, Quality Expert

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    Absence of a government policy to regulate the production of tea in the country has caused the country’s failure to produce the required quantity and quality to earn more.

    Experts in tea production say that Uganda has failed to hit the targets set by the tea expansion strategy of reaching 112,000 metric tons a year and 155 million dollars in export revenues by 2020.

    They reasoned that the continued failure to put in place a tea policy and regulation is the main reason behind the continued poor quality, failure to meet targeted quantities and Uganda tea continuing to fetch lower prices compared to her competitors Kenya and Rwanda on the international markets.

    Innocent Twesime, a manager at Swazi Highland Tea in Buhweju said that due to the lack of a tea policy and regulation, there are no set standards right from production to post-harvest handling as well as processing at the different factories.

    “The lack of the policy itself has dragged the quality improvement in our tea sub sector or in Uganda’s tea. So, compared to neighbouring countries, for example, Uganda’s tea is slightly of inferior quality,” he told journalists during a tour.

    Stella Mbakeya, a director at the same firm described the tea policy as a regulatory framework that “makes us do things right.”

    “Without a tea policy there are certain things that we do not have. Some people compromise on our quality because there is no regulation. Every one plants, harvests the way they want. Anybody can put up a factory whether you are a farmer or you are not, you can put up a factory and above all, there are certain things we need to have subsidized like fertilizers. We need to have good clones. We need to have pesticides subsidized by the government,” she explained.

    Mbakeya said that lack of the regulatory framework in green leaf production also creates a mad scramble for green leaf especially during the dry off-peak seasons, thereby contributing to the lower prices of Uganda tea at the international markets.

    Onesmus Matsiko, the General Manager, Mabale Growers Tea Factory in Kyenjojo District said that the quantities produced and revenue earned have not grown as dramatically as was envisaged.

    He revealed that when the tea expansion strategy was launched, Uganda produced 60,504 metric tons compared to a production of 76,769 tons in 2020/2021 which is still below the target of 112 metric tons by 2020 and 155 million dollars in export revenues.

    “During the time when they are scrambling for the green leaf, they become insensitive to quality. The farmers ply factories. When one factory says this leaf is of poor quality, a farmer will tell you if you do not like the quality, your competitors’ truck is about to arrive here and with cash and with a higher price. So that situation drives the quality! And that is why Uganda’s tea price at the Mombasa auction is less than half of Rwanda, like 60 percent of Kenya price, because there is no regulation and everyone pursues his individual interest,” said Matsiko, also the chairperson of Uganda Tea Outgrowers Association (UTOA).

    According to Matsiko, the lack of a tea policy also means there are no clear standards at the production stage.

    “For instance, tea pluckers are supposed to pick the freshest leaf to ensure high quality of tea. However, the pluckers are paid Shs100 per kilo and it is according to how many kilos that they are able to pick per day. These tea pluckers in Mabale in Kyenjojo district, pluck as much leaf as possible regardless of checking quality. Their goal is to try and attain 100kg per day to break even,” he added.

    The Agro-Industrialization programme of the NDP3 has designated tea as a priority cash crop that will help uplift the incomes and welfare of Ugandan farmers involved in its production.

    Tea is the third leading agricultural foreign exchange earner after coffee and fish.

    Statistics show that tea is an important source of income and livelihood for over 80,000 households in 21 districts across the country.

    In 2015 the government unveiled the tea expansion strategy which has guided efforts to increase the acreage and quantity of tea production.

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    FARMING

    Farmers In Jubilation As Carbon Credit Payments Kick Off In Sebei Region

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    A section of coffee farmers from the eastern region of Sebei have been paid for practicing agroforestry at the launch of carbon credit payments in the country.

    The project seeks to support farmers to mitigate the negative effects of Climate Change in their respective communities and the country as a whole.

    At least 1000 farmers underwent a pilot assessment leading to the payment of 368 farmers who qualified for the carbon credits in Sebei and Bugisu sub regions.
    Officials from Solidaridad East and Central say that the money that the farmers are going to receive is to support their families and also re-invest in agroforestry to increase their annual reward under the programme dubbed ‘from Climate Victims to Climate heroes.’

    The project targets 50,000 smallholder coffee farmers in Kenya and Uganda to increase coffee production as well as mitigating Climate change effects through carbon farming.

    Joseph Maberi, a project associate with Solidaridad East and Central Africa said that the payment is given under the project code named “from Climate Victims to Climate Heroes” that targets farmers who practice agroforestry. The project seeks to promote carbon farming, carbon pre-financing and carbon trading.

    “We want to see farmers practice smart agriculture on their coffee gardens whereby they plant trees on their coffee gardens that complement the coffee and also support them with firewood when they grow,” said Maberi.

    He added that under carbon pre-financing, there are farmers who have coffee but they do not have trees in them, so the project is going to support them to procure seedlings that are going to be shades in their coffee gardens.

    According to Maberi, with carbon credit, when the farmers practice carbon farming or coffee agroforestry, their trees and coffee take in carbon; “When you see a tree growing in size, it means it takes in carbon and releases oxygen for human beings. The carbon that the trees take in, is what affects climate change.”

    “When the farmers plant trees and coffee, they grow and our partners; Acorn and RaboBank carry out assessment of the amount of carbon called Carbon reduction Units (CRUs) that has been taken in and they do this by use of satellite and transfer the data and each tonne of carbon produced, a farmer is paid some money called carbon credits,” he said.

    Rabo Bank Accounts manager Margret Muiebelt commended the farmers and disclosed that the arrangement would soon start carbon harvesting to yield more economic benefits.

    She added that the project is implementing agroforestry due to its benefits to unlock the carbon market for farmers adopting the carbon farming.

    “The trees that you will plant or have recently planted will take up carbon from the atmosphere, store it in their trunks and branches and they release oxygen that we need. The stored within the trees are actually the carbon credits,” she said.

    She said that each year, farmers will be compensated for the growth of the carbon but warned that if the trees are cut, they would stand to lose the payments until the trunks regenerate.

    “We have completed the first cycle of tree planting, measuring the growth in carbon, selling these Microsoft and paying out the proceeds to the farmers on whose plots this growth was measured,” she said at the launching of the carbon credits payment in Kapchorwa District.

    William Toboswo of Kapchesi village in Kween District, one of the beneficiaries of the programme said that the benefits in agroforestry are far beyond his expectation yet he planted trees to provide shade for his garden.

    Joseph Maberi a project associate of Solidaridad (right) with William Toboswo a beneficiary in Kween District.

    “By getting this chance, I got encouraged and I will mobilise my neighbours to do the same to improve our climate. When you intercrop, the trees provide shade and the leaves become a mulch for the coffee and my coffee production has since gone up,” said the 68-year-old farmer.

    Toboswo said: “I started in the programme in 2021 and from this arrangement, the coffee yields have gone up, I get firewood, timber for construction and fencing my farm and also I have been supported to plant more trees which has resulted in payment. It has reduced the cost of weeding the garden and I intend to sensitise many people to also tap into these benefits.”

    Mirika Khisa, another beneficiary farmer from Kween District narrated that when she started intercropping coffee with trees, she realized increased harvests in addition to firewood from the trees as well as manure from the leaves that fall from the trees.

    “With the trees, the coffee plants does not get a lot of heat, pruning is also easy and it has simplified the farming, it has helped me to reduce on the rate at which coffee bellies fall, it has reduced on the heat affecting my other crops, the environment is cool,” she said.

    Khisa further revealed that her household income increased and as a result, her livelihood has also improved in that she is currently constructing a new house resulting from the income I get from coffee after increased production

    “My coffee harvest increased from 10 to 18 bags a year from my 2-acre piece of land. These trees are a benefit to me, I do waste a lot of time looking for firewood, I get poles to fence my garden to prevent encroachers.”

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    FARMING

    Gov’t Finalizes Plan To Regulate Tea Industry

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    Government has developed a policy to regulate the tea industry and to address challenges affecting the tea sub sector in the country.

    The ministries of Agriculture and that of trade developed the National Tea Policy to guide tea production, processing and to support diversification of products of tea being produced.

    The policy that awaits to be submitted to the Cabinet focuses on improving access to quality agro–inputs including tea seedlings, fertilizers and herbicides, enhancing the use of modern technologies informed by research and extension services.

    It also seeks to institute measures to improve harvesting, post-harvest handling and value addition, strengthening the infrastructure for the Tea industry including establishing factories and other requisite machinery, improving access to affordable power supply, financial and insurance services, enhancing market access, advocacy, education, information and communication services among others.

    Government officials say that the The Tea industry has a higher potential to contribute more to the national economy, employment creation, and environmental conservation.

    Once approved, the Tea Policy will be developed as a commercial enterprise and an instrument to fight poverty through gainful agricultural employment where more investments shall be made at the lower stages of the value chain and majority of the tea stakeholders are engaged to ensure they are employed gainfully in ways that elevate household incomes and alleviate poverty.

    The policy seeks to promote improved tea research and extension service delivery, establishment of Tea Farmer Associations and Credit Cooperatives, expansion of the area under tea and gap filling in existing tea plantations as well as increase tea processing capacity and value addition.

    State Minister for Agriculture Maj. (rtd) Fred Bwino Kyakulaga said that the policy seeks to promote issues of quality because the market demands are enormous.

    “The consumers are demanding a lot of quality innovations, so we hope that by formulating this policy, we shall be able to address that gap and achieve the consumer demands,” Kyakulaga said.

    Kyakulaga was speaking at the validation of the National tea Policy meeting held in Kampala.

    About the fertilizers, Kyakulaga allayed fears of the farmers saying that the president has since recognized the demand by various farmers for subsidy and hence it will be considered.

    Development partner organizations; TrustAfrica and Solidaridad East and Central Africa in partnership with the Ministries of Agriculture and that of trade organized the tea policy validation meeting held in Kampala.

    Dr Bethule Nyamambi, the Programme Manager at TrustAfrica also representing Solidaridad East and Central Africa described the validation of the draft National Tea Policy as a milestone in the tea sector.

    She said that through their Reclaim Sustainability programme, the organisations are working with all those in the tea sector to foster inclusive and sustainable value chains and trade in an innovative way.

    Dr Bethule said that the arrangement seeks to encourage an enabling policy environment in which the interests, voices and rights of all stakeholders including those of farmers, women, workers and citizens are represented and heard in decision making.

    “The policy that has meaningfully consulted all the players in the sector will have meaningful sector changing impact, have ownership, and the sector will able rights and interests of producers and workers and citizens impact and gain results in improving decent working conditions, sustainable natural resource management, achieving fair value for all in the value chains,” she explained.

    Onesmus Matsiko, the chairperson of Uganda Tea Outgrowers Association (UTOA) said the tea policy came out of a regulatory vacuum. He explained that following the liberation of the economy, the old laws of tea became obsolete but the tea industry acreage has grown from about 20,000 hectares in the year 2001 to currently over 45,000 hectares of tea with massive production where tea farmers dominating tea production and small holder farmers own more than 70 percent of Uganda’s tea acreage.

    “Farmers grow tea and sell to factories which they do not own and the environment of tea growing and purchase is not regulated hence we have lost the fertilizer supply mechanism where tea farmers do not access fertilisers and the acreage talked about is yielding less than half of the potential,” he said.

    According to Matsiko, the tea industry has lost quality control capacity where Uganda tea quality is suffering and that on the international scene, Ugandan tea sells the least amount of about $1 compared to our Kenya counterparts who sold at an average of $2.2 and Rwanda sold at $2.4 per Kilogramme as of last week.

    “Uganda’s tea is selling at less than half of our neighbouring countries because our quality control has crashed, there is no regulation, our national acreage is giving half of its potential. Even without giving anymore seedlings, we can at minimum double Uganda’s tea production but all this needs the facilitation, coordination, guidance of the national team policy,” he added

    Matsiko also the General manager of Mabale Growers Tea Factory in Kabarole District said that he was part of the policy draft team said that the policy covers the agriculture, tea processing and the tea trade components.

    Why tea Policy
    Currently, Tea is the third agricultural export earner in the Country, earning over $85M (BOU,2022). In the economy, Tea contributes about 1.6 percent of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product and provides 11 percent of the national employment.

    Although the tea sector greatly contributes to exports and the national economy, the sector is faced with Low production, low quality of tea and limited competitiveness of the Tea products in the regional and international market.

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    FARMING

    GOOD NEWS FOR FARMERS: Shs3.8tn To Be Saved As Uganda Biotechnology Scientists Help Solve Ticks Problem…

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    Dr. Fredrick Kabi (L), on the right is a cow that has been affected by ticks

    Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) scientists led by Dr. Frederick Kabi, the leading principal investigator in the fight to develop the anti-tick and tick borne disease vaccine has saved Ugandans from spending Shs3.8tn on buying acaricide, establishing measures to control ticks and treating their animals from deadly ticks.

    During a meeting with the media held at BioCafe, convened by Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development (SCIFODE) and UBBC with support from the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS),  UBBC scientists disclosed that their goal is to create innovations and research on Biotechnology for socio-economic transformation and climate change resilience.

    Dr. Kabi, who is the Principal Research Officer (PRO) in NARO based at National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) disclosed that Scientists use living things or parts of living things to make useful products that benefit mankind and the environment.

    In agriculture, UBBC innovations are often used in combination with conventional breeding to develop improved plant varieties.

    In an engagement with Online media journalists, Dr. Kabi revealed that since childhood, he has been thinking about how he could use his knowledge to solve the ticks problem after establishing that 80% of cattle mostly in Africa are at risk of ticks and tick borne diseases.

    He explained that when he started the project of manufacturing the anti-tick vaccines ten years back, he was helped by other scientists to meet President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who was very happy with their initiative.

    “President Museveni has been very supportive and we thank him as scientists for the achievement we have had. The vaccination has passed the trial stage and very soon, the vaccine is going to be on the market and we are very sure that the president and all herdsmen around the country whose animals were being finished off by ticks are going to get peace.” Dr. Kabi said.

    He added that according to his research, Ugandans have been spending between Shs2.5-3.8tn annually on fighting ticks using high cost treatments and control measures which in turn affect their animals’ productivity and the market.

    He explained that if his vaccine goes onto the market, farmers are going to stop using the acaricide to kill ticks because they have lost the potency due to their longevity of over 100 years in use.

    Dr. Kabi added that acaricide is not only costly to a farmer but also affects the environment and leads to food contamination and death of non-targeted life through meat and milk.

    He said that Uganda is not going to be the first country to use vaccination to kill ticks. He gave examples of Cuba and Austria who started vaccinating their animals as early as 1939.

    “Vaccines are safe, organic and more sustainable for tick control and this has been established by the National Drug Authority (NDA) and other drug regulatory bodies which permitted the conducting of continued field trials,” Dr. Kabi said.

    He added that their trial were carried out on cattle breeds of Friesians, Boram and Ankole cattle which were heavily affected by ticks and exercise took 360 days covering all climate seasons in areas of North East Uganda, Northern Uganda, Ankole, Bunyoro among others.

    He added that the research is still ongoing now at field stage of vaccine trials on animals at NARO’s Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development (MbaZARDI).

    Dr. Kabi said that in their observation during the trials, they established that there was no adverse effect associated with the trials.

    For the 360 days, they only used the vaccine and did not use acaricide, but the ticks were successfully managed.

    He revealed that since their trials succeeded, farmers’ lives have changed because their cattle are now free from ticks and the productivity is high which has saved farmers who were dying of stress caused by ticks which killed their animals.

    Dr. Kabi thanked president Museveni for the new modern technology equipment which he procured for them to help them during their research and innovation.

    Dr. Andrew Kiggundu the UBBC president pleaded with the concerned authorities to speed up the process of enacting a law to legalise UBBC work because it will help the world’s growing population which currently stands at eight billion.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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