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Coffee farmers urged to embrace insurance

As the unpredictability of weather patterns continues to trouble farmers, experts have advised those involved in coffee trade to take up insurance to soften the risks.

Joseph Nkandu, the executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe), said drought is ravaging coffee farms and that farmers could bear the brunt unless some key solutions – such as taking up insurance – are found.

“Where drought has been felt most, coffee trees have dried up. Some have failed to flower due to lack of moisture… It becomes worse when the coffee beans are forming. Because this stage needs enough water and moisture for growth but when absent, these dry up,” said Nkandu.

He was speaking about crop insurance to coffee farmers from 30 associations in Kiwanga, Mukono. The workshop was aimed at interesting farmers in an insurance package for coffee called the drought coffee insurance policy, which is being rolled out by Nucafe in partnership with the Uganda Agro Insurance Consortium.

A coffee farmer happy with her harvest

“The problem is critical, the weather has become too harsh for coffee; we have taken it upon ourselves as Nucafe to prepare farmers through trainings to take on crop insurance for their coffee so that they don’t lose out completely,” Nkandu added.

Last year, government launched a campaign to increase domestic coffee consumption to stimulate production. By that time, government was envisaging coffee exports to grow from the current 4.3 million bags to 20 million bags by 2020.

But Nkandu doubts the targets can be met.

“With the current weather changes, we may not harvest even the three million bags. If no appropriate interventions like irrigation are put in place,” he said.

The most affected type of coffee is Robusta. Musa Mutyaba, the production officer at Nucafe, said the farmer leaders will be trained before they can pass on the information to their members.

Mutyaba said the project will first be rolled out as a pilot in the districts of Kapchorwa, Mbale, as Masaka, Mpigi, Buikwe and Wakiso.

According to Mutyaba, for the policy to be effective, insurance providers will depend on accurate weather information through the EARS Earth Environment Monitoring BV, an agency based in Netherlands working with NASA, an American agency that collects weather information across the globe.

HOW IT WORKS

Small-scale farmers working on less than five acres who are interested in the policy will pay a premium of five per cent of the value of the expected yield of the crop to the insurance company, explained Daka Munyaradzi, the technical manager of the Agro Consortium.

He added that the consortium aims at mitigating financial losses suffered by farmers due to damages and destruction of their crops and livestock by fire, drought, flooding, landslides, hailstorms, pests and diseases, among others.

Robert Serwanga, one of the innovators of the product, explained that the policy is responding to farmers’ concerns of prolonged drought, which has reduced coffee yields.

Serwanga added that 65 per cent of losses that occur on the farm are due to drought. He said the interest in growing coffee is declining because many farmers do not know how to mitigate the risks of unpredictable weather patterns.

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