Paul Bhumba (47) and his wife Jane (37) are among 1.7 million Ugandan families who grow coffee as a key livelihood source. But for years, the full harvest potential of their 4-acre coffee farm has remained untapped. They would harvest about 2 bags (200kg) of coffee per season earning them about UGX 960,000 ($270) per year from their coffee. With four children, their profits mostly went to school fees but their income from coffee and other crops didn’t meet this large expense. Despite also earning salaries from teaching, both Paul and Jane’s combined salaries couldn’t adequately supplement their agricultural income to meet their family’s needs – so they resorted to loans. Despite being buried in debt, Paul and Jane remained committed to supporting their children’s education.

“As teachers, we both value education and agree that no matter what, it is imperative for their children to go to school so that they can achieve their dreams. This has remained our steadfast desire and motivation.” – Paul Bhumba

Paul, Jane and their children – Catherine (left), Cornelius (above) and Christian (right)

Many farming families in Uganda face a similar predicament to that of Jane and Paul. For decades, their coffee production has been challenged by various issues ranging from extreme droughts, unpredictable rains, increased incidents of pests and diseases, and little knowledge on good coffee management and climate-smart practices. As a result, their basic needs are unmet, and their dreams are not attainable.

ICP lends a helping hand

Fortunately, in 2019, Paul and Jane were invited to join one of the projects that International Coffee Partners (ICP) was implementing in their community. The aim of the project was to improve the livelihoods of coffee farming families by providing them with information on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and climate-smart practices while strengthening existing farmer organizations, promoting gender equality through a gender household approach and empowering youth to actively participate in agriculture as a lucrative livelihood activity.

Through ICP’ interventions which are implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS), the family of Paul and Jane were among many other farming families in their community who received trainings on improved agricultural and climate-smart practices like mulching, trenching, shade tree integration, fertilizer and pesticide application and others. They were also encouraged to strengthen their production through diversifying their crops by integrating bananas and beans in their coffee and growing maize. ICP’s wholistic approach included gender sensitization trainings which encouraged the couples to be more inclusive in their decision-making and plan their farming businesses together. Paul and Jane were also mobilized into a Village Saving and Loans Associations (VSLA) in their farmer organization which has enabled them to save some money to repay their debt.

Inter-cropped bananas used as shade trees and for mulching coffee

Maize grown for crop diversification

Dreams made possible

Through the various interventions that Paul and Jane partook, their productivity and income was drastically boosted. In just 2 years, they saw their harvests increase from 2 bags to 11 bags. Their annual coffee income subsequently went up to about 4,180,000 UGX ($1,185). As a result, their vision for their children has been actualized. Conrad (23) their oldest son is about to finish his undergraduate studies in medicine; he aspires to be a surgeon. Christian (20) is finalizing his last year of secondary at the end of this year. Although his studies were slightly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian is looking forward to beginning university next year. Catherine (16) is excelling in her studies and is set to complete senior 4 this year. Cornelius (4) has been declared the family’s genius and his parents look forward to giving him a bright future through providing him with a university level education. Paul and Jane state that their children are more secure in their parent’s ability to support their education and as a result are more responsible and focused on their studies.

“Studying medicine was our eldest son’s dream so we took loans to pay his university fees because we didn’t want to let him down. Now that we have learned how to better manage our coffee farm, our harvests are plentiful, and we are able to repay the loans and continue to pay the school fees of all our children on time.” – Paul Bhumba

A plentiful coffee harvest

Inspecting young coffee trees for pests and diseases

Becoming exemplary farm entrepreneurs

As their farm and harvests transformed, members of Paul and Jane’s community viewed their farm as a model for their own. Neighbors began to visit them which gave Paul and Jane the opportunity to advise them on how to run their farms as a business. They encourage other farmers on the importance of jointly preparing a household budget that maps out their income and their expenses. These are skills they learned through the HRNS gender household approach which focuses on promoting gender equality. The couple also frequently visit other farming households to share their experience and encourage other families to work together and plan their business and investments. Paul and Jane’s entrepreneurial spirit has proved contagious, and they have seen other households reinvesting their proceeds to increase their coffee farms and achieve more prosperous farming businesses.

“We are perceived as role models because we expanded our coffee farm from 4 acres to 6 acres. We advise other farming families to give all family members the opportunity to contribute to planning how to reinvest and spend their profits.” – Jane Bhumba

Jane and Paul’s expanded coffee farm

More years of impact for ICP

This year, the ICP partners celebrate their 20-year anniversary. Since 2001, the partners have reached over 100,000 farming families across six key coffee producing countries with similar interventions to the ones that Paul and Jane received. In a recent progress report, the adoption rate of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) among Ugandan farmers that partook in the ICP project was found to be at 69% and the adoption rate of climate-smart practices was at 56%. It was also reported that between 2015 and 2019, there was an average increase of household income from coffee production by 124%.

The ICP partners are currently implementing a third phase of the initiative for coffee&climate in the districts of Luwero, Nakasongola and Nakaseke in Uganda. As climate change continues to present big challenges to farmers in coffee producing regions, particularly East Africa, ICP looks forward to continuing to expand their interventions around climate change in the coming years. Given the fact that 77% of Uganda’s population are youth, another current focus area of ICP in Uganda is to continue to improve the participation of young people in agriculture as a prosperous livelihood activity.

About International Coffee Partners (ICP)

International Coffee Partners (ICP) is a pre-competitive initiative of the leading European family-owned coffee companies, Delta Cafés of Portugal, Franck of Croatia, Paulig of Finland, Joh. Johannson of Norway, Löfbergs of Sweden, Lavazza of Italy, Neumann Gruppe of Germany and Tchibo of Germany. ICP’s objective is to contribute know-how to establish a sustainable coffee sector in key producing countries through the implementation of best-practice projects in coffee farmer communities. Since 2001, ICP has reached more than 92,000 smallholder families in 12 countries. 

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