It was not too long ago that Teddy Nakyambadde, a young farmer from Mityana, Uganda, was struggling as a single mother to make ends meet and feed her young son. Today however, she is a dynamic agri-business woman growing and selling coffee, tomatoes, maize and beans in her farm of 3.5 acres. She attributes her ascension as a farmer to the International Coffee Partners (ICP) project in Uganda which helped her improve her yields and profits through trainings on improved primary processing methods and good agriculture practices. Watch the video below to hear Teddy narrate how the ICP project in Uganda impacted her life.

A video in which Teddy narrates how the ICP project in Uganda impacted her life

 

Recently however, Teddy and the farmers from her Farmer Field Schools (FFS) have been facing challenges due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. The nationwide lock-down which was put in place in March to curb the spread of the virus disrupted their trainings on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) and Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices. Additionally, their Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) meetings had to be postponed in adherence to the social distancing laws.

To overcome this, Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) who is the implementer of the ICP project in Uganda, sought permission from the local authorities to allow field staff and exemplary farmers like Teddy to continue training farmers. The trainers were able to do so through individual home visits where they followed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) such as wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing. This continued until the lock-down measures were slightly alleviated in June and all FFS facilitators could resume sessions of up to ten people. Today in Mityana, most VSLA’s are operational and take place in the open-air with a maximum of ten members who all wear masks.

A VSLA session taking place in Mityana, Uganda while adhering to SOPs

For smallholder farmer families in Mityana, the implications of the lockdown have resulted in inflated prices of agricultural inputs. As bus fares have increased (due to the restrictions on the number of passengers currently allowed on minibuses in Uganda,) it has made it more expensive for business owners that sell agricultural supplies in Mityana to travel to Kampala for stock. This has resulted in agricultural shops increasing the prices of their products making them more difficult for farmers to afford. For Teddy, this was a particularly difficult challenge to maneuver as she needs agricultural inputs in order to harvest plentiful and quality produce. Fortunately, in Mityana, HRNS has strived to connect farmer organizations to suppliers/partners that can subsidize the price of inputs.

While the price of inputs has risen in Uganda, the market price of certain crops like maize, beans and tomatoes has plummeted in Tanzania. Farmers like Rangboy Haonga and his family are facing very tough times because they are selling some of their crops at almost half their usual price. Fortunately, as part of HRNS’ livelihood approach, in addition to the trainings on GAP, farmers are also exposed to entrepreneurship and business development trainings which has helped them cope with the unforeseeable challenges they are facing. Rangboy who is part of the ICP project in Mbeya attested to the benefit of these trainings saying: “The business trainings have helped us keep records which enable us to make the right decisions for our farming business to overcome the limitations presented by the pandemic.”

Ranboy and his family at their coffee farm in Mbeya, Tanzania

To accompany the entrepreneurship and business development trainings, ICP’s implementing partner HRNS also encourages joint planning and decision making in the households through its gender household approach. These trainings have proved essential for farming families in these times because they can adjust their household budgets where their income has been affected. By doing so, farmers who have struggled to make ends-meet due to the recession can find alternative sources of income such as selling pancakes and fried cassava. 

“Although our household plan has been affected because of diminishing crop prices, the habits we have developed through gender trainings have helped us to focus on reducing our expenditure and increasing our returns. We are hopeful that our family will continue to progress,” says Rangboy Haonga.

With the many challenges that COVID-19 has presented to farmers in Uganda and Tanzania, opportunities have also emerged for the ICP partners to strengthen our support of smallholder coffee farmer families. The ICP project continues to adapt its modus operandi to the obstacles that COVID-19 has brought about and in turn, this will help farmers also adapt to the situation.