Elgon Coffee Farmers Embrace Agroforestry for Climate Resilience

In Summary
  • Coffee is a major cash crop in Uganda.
  • Climate change  is real
  • USAID supports coffee farmers in Elgon region
Coffee beans
Image: Bright Baba

Coffee farmers in the Elgon region have embraced agroforestry as one of the measures to combat effects of climate change.

Coffee is a major cash crop in Uganda. The people in this region grow Arabica coffee known to be larger and a more oval shape. Arabica coffee flourishes in fertile soils with high altitude.

Coffee exports for the financial year 2022/23 totaled 5.76 million bags worth US$845.94 million, marking an 8% decrease in quantity and a 2% decrease in value compared to the previous financial year. This decline was partly caused by drought and the prevalence of pests and diseases in Robusta growing areas.

Bags of Coffee ready for export
Image: Bright Baba

We visit Masha coffee located in the Sebei region on the slopes of Mt Elgon, Eastern Uganda founded in 2016 with an aim of improving coffee farmer’s household through improved and sustainable farming practices, value addition and marketing.

Eunice Chokepta technical manager Masha coffee Company says they have embarked on a number of activities aimed at soil and water conservation.

We dig trenches in the gardens which hold water when it rains and slowly dissolves into the soil.

Farmers are also encouraged to plant some recommended trees which give blend well and shade to the coffee plants but also greatly improve on the soil structure making it stronger and these include Cordia Africana, Albizia and shrubs such Custer oil, say Chokepta

Coffee trees planted along side a shade tree
Image: Bright Baba

We also do mulching where we use dry materials to cover the soil which reduces the rate of evaporation, which keeps the soil moisture and controls weeds in the farm among others.

The other practice is shoot selection. Here we reduce the numerous sprouts that may consume a lot of nutrients and leave only 3 which will yield fruit, she adds.The group which has benefited from USAID support boosts of over 1,000 farmers.

Recently the US Ambassador to Uganda H.E William Popp visited the farm and was impressed by the adoption of sustainable practices by the farmers.

Such practices do not only benefit the environment but also ensures the long term health of the coffee industry, he said.

Ambassador William Popp admires a flourisng coffee tree
Image: Bright Baba

He further mentioned that the sector is today faced with severe dry spells, floods and an increase in pests and diseases which call for attention to mitigate the harsh effects.

The Ambassador was given a tour of the facility taking him through all the processes including washing of the coffee beans before being dried. 

A worker demostrates how the coffee beans are washed before being dried.
Image: Bright Baba

Ambassador Popp was also given an opportunity to plant a coffee tree at the farm and he promised to come four years later to check on his coffee tree in the Eastern region.