By Abdulkarim Ssengendo
The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has urged religious leaders to prioritise the fight against poverty among their followers by starting income-generating projects, especially growing coffee, on church land.
The call was made by Deus Mutabatina, the UCDA co-ordinator, while addressing church leaders in the Ankole diocese, during a two-day pastoral visit of Sheldon Mwesigwa, the Bishop of the Ankole, to coffee projects in the diocese.
Mutabatina said utilising church land for agricultural projects would also help develop the institution.
He also encouraged coffee farmers to focus on producing quality coffee as this will help the country hit its target of 20 million bags of coffee.
Uganda currently produces only 8.6 million bags.
To attain the required volumes, Mutabatina said farmers must grow more coffee in the right varieties and use genuine seedlings.
Mwesigwa lauded parishes for responding to the Government’s call of getting coffee seedlings and planting them.
He said the income generated from the coffee and other projects will be used to spread the gospel.
He also said, after coffee, his diocese will focus on other projects, like banana growing, tree planting and vanilla, among others.
Mwesigwa noted the need for experts to train them in good farming practices, to ensure high yields.
The bishop also asked the Government to deploy extension workers to support coffee farmers.
He urged the Government to help the church and Christians access the Parish Development Model (PDM) funds. He noted that if Christians benefit from the PDM, the success will be transferred to the church.
Simon Kwikiriza, the head of the department of household and community transformation in the Ankole diocese, said they are growing coffee on 202 acres as a demonstration farm.
They have also extended up to the households of the Christians on 133 acres.
“We intend to have coffee as the income alternative for churches for self-sustainability in case there is no other source of income, like the case was during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kwikiriza added.
He said they plan to create a coffee co-operative that will absorb all the coffee to have a competitive brand on the international market.
Benon Musiime, the Rwampara district agriculture officer, emphasised the need to adopt better farming management skills for farmers to get better yields.
The Rev. Jackson Tumuhirwe, the vice-chairperson of Rwampara district, was concerned about thieves stealing coffee and called on the community to form a team to sensitise people, especially the youth, to get involved in the coffee projects.