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Ibanda cooperative lays plan to export coffee

IBANDA, December 18, 2023 – Based in Ibanda district in western Uganda, Nyamirima-Mutegaya Growers Cooperative Society Limited says it is working on a plan that will see it export farmer’s coffee.

The cooperative is among the primary societies affiliated to Banyankole Kweterana Cooperative Union [BKCU], which is still struggling to regain its glory after being destabilised by the political instabilities of the 1970s and 1980s and mismanagement.

Jane Kafura [on the right], the Society’s General Manager, told this reporter in a recent interview that the leaders are determined to sell farmers’ coffee to the foreign market, saying BKCU which was initially marketing the coffee internationally has failed to get back on its feet after business went bad.

“BKCU is no longer active, it is still held up somewhere and as Nyamirima-Mutegaya Growers Cooperative Society, we could not wait. We had to stand up, struggle and move on our own,” she said.

Kafura said the turning point for the cooperative society came in October 2022 when it signed an agreement for a grant of about US$ 200, 000 [about Shs 740 million], enabling the cooperative to kick-start most of its activities.

“We were advised that there is an advert in the newspapers about the United States African Development Foundation [USADF] inviting proposals for a grant. We applied and the fact that we had all the requirements they wanted, we won the grant,” she noted.

In February 2023, she said, USADF sponsored two staff members of the Society to attend the African Coffee Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, which helped the Society to build business networks, that it can utilise to market its coffee in the foreign markets.

“They [USADF] have even helped us in marketing and our coffee international but what is hindering from exporting is the lack of Fairtrade certificate which we are pursuing,” Kafura said.

She said they used some of the money to purchase a truck to ease the mobility of coffee from farmers’ homes, and then to the market.

“In April 2023, we used about Shs 125mln to buy a truck to transport our coffee from farmers to the factory, and then from the factory to the market. We also spent Shs 10mln to purchase a motorcycle used in providing extension services to our members,” she said.

She added they also bought office equipment like computers, desks and chairs and reserved working capital of about Shs 42mln.

Isaiah Kakuba, Chairman Nyamirima-Mutegaya Growers Cooperative Society said they want to enhance household incomes of their members through exporting coffee so that they are able to pay for basic needs such as education, health, clothing and others.

He said the loyalty of members has consistently enabled Nyamirima Growers Cooperative Society Ltd. to thrive.

“What has helped us to progress is because we have many coffee farmers that are loyal to the Society. They have given us a lot of coffee and by doing that; we received a lot of premium that helped us to construct a coffee huller,” Kakuba said.

He thanked USADF for the financial support that enabled them to have the infrastructure.

“We got a grant from USADF and we have used it to bulk coffee from our members, do the hulling, and then sell our coffee in Kampala. This has enabled us to get the facilities that we have today,” Kakuba said

“They are constructing for us a modern huller, a warehouse, they gave us trainings, human resource, staff salaries, and top ups, and crop finance as a working capital to enable us buys farmers’ coffee on time” he emphasised.

The chairman said that the training extended to farmers will enable them to produce specialty coffee that can compete on the international market.

“With these continuous trainings, farmers will be in position to take good care of their coffee right from the start up to post harvest handling to be able to come up with commodity-grade coffee at the huller for better yields,” he said.

Kakuba said that the primary society has plans to start a coffee nursery bed and a SACCO that can provide emergency funds to the coffee farmers.

“Many times, members come here looking for financial support but we fail and send them to banks but it would be prudent if we have our farmers’ SACCO where our members can get money for school fees or to clear hospital bills,” he said.

Truck belonging to Nyamirima-Mutegaya Growers Cooperative Society (Photo by Joshua Nahamya).

Kakuba encouraged other primary societies to independently start their coffee business other than waiting for defunct traditional unions to do it for them.

“Most of the primary societies still have land, others have infrastructure but I am wondering why some, if not all, have remained dormant. Let them solicit some support and start business,” he said.

Nyamirima-Mutegaya Growers Co-op Society Ltd is found in Nyamirima parish present Bufunda Division in Ibanda Municipality and was started in 1961.

Currently, it has a total of 527 active members and managed to collect about 70 tonnes of FAQ [fair average quality] this season from Ibanda and sold to Kampala.

It has a total of 5 units of land including one at Rwentama cell where the coffee factory and the warehouse is under construction.

In the next 5 years, Nyamirima wants to become a big primary society with more than 1,000 coffee members.

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