The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has started a campaign to help people in the Rwenzori region who are part of the coffee value chain understand what the controversial National Coffee Act, 2021 means.
The campaign was started after different groups in the area got into fights over how the new law for small-scale farmers would work and what benefits it would bring.
The purpose of the Coffee Act is to create a competitive, participatory, and sustainable coffee sub-sector in line with the National Coffee Policy of 2013. It also gives the UCDA the power to regulate, promote, and watch over the coffee sub-sector, as well as control activities on and off farms in the coffee value chain.
But farmers in Kasese who interacted with URN think that the new legislation is intended to give more powers to the government to control the ages-old coffee sector than the farmers themselves.
The regional quality manager of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Gordon Katwirenabo, says that although the legislation is meant to boost quality coffee production, it has received a lot of public criticism.
He attributed this to the limited awareness that was given to farmers before the act was drafted and put into law.
Katwirenabo believes the act is the best development that has happened to the coffee sector in recent years since it will be right at the heart of the government.
He said that Ugandan coffee sellers have a great chance of getting into the international sales chain, but this depends on how stable production is.
But the farmers say the Coffee Act 2021 is likely to chase many farmers and coffee traders from the business.
Alex Kambale, who is in charge of coffee traders in Kasese, says that the law has some good points, but it needs to be explained in detail to the farmers so they can stay in business.
Charles Kisembo, a coffee farmer, says with or without the coffee law, there are still challenges that need to be addressed, especially in rural areas, such as improving on value addition, fertilizers, and pest and disease control.
Another coffee farmer, Moses Mumbere, says the new law has scared most farmers because it was passed without engaging them to understand its true purpose, and they are certain they will not be able to meet some of the clauses.
He noted that, traditionally, coffee was grown like any other agricultural product.
But Katwirenabo says some of these issues are emerging because farmers have not fully been given the right information.
He is hopeful that, under this drive, the law will be positively appreciated.