A pilot project in Uganda is seeking to understand the threat climate change poses to coffee production and enable growers to enhance their resilience to extreme weather events. Coffee contributes about US$400 million of Uganda’s total annual export revenue, directly or indirectly employing at least two million people.
“The economy of Uganda remains largely dependent on a few agro-commodities (coffee, tea, cotton), predominantly rain-fed and grown by smallholders with limited external inputs, making the country highly sensitive to climate risks,” Julie Karami Dekens, the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s (IISD) project manager for climate change and energy, told the UN IRIN news service.
The six-month pilot project, which was launched in April, is a collaborative effort between Uganda’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC), the local Makerere University and IISD. The programme will explore climate vulnerabilities across the coffee value chain with a view to expanding these assessments to other agricultural value chains. It reflects growing recognition that climate change will have far-reaching effects across the agricultural, administrative and economic sectors.
According to a recent government briefing on the project, value chain development is crucial to the growth of agricultural commodities. But limited work has been done to understand the impact of climate risks along the levels of value chains. The project hopes to help bridge this gap.
A separate 2013 study, Climate Risk Management for Sustainable Crop Production in Uganda, noted that “there is a need to understand how climate risks are distributed and transmitted (or not) among all the stakeholders of value chains (not just at production level) to identify solutions that benefit all actors along the value chain and opportunities for investments.”
Incorporating an understanding of climate change into agriculture will mean that “there will be a coherent and thorough integration of climate change adaptation and the associated disaster risk management agendas and structures into sectoral and national strategies,” said Betty Namwagala, the executive director of the Uganda Coffee Federation.
Apart from the effects on coffee trees, and on production, more frequent or intense extreme weather events can lead to a deteriorate in infrastructure, such as storage facilities and roads, leading to a reduction in crop quality and limited access to markets,” said Ms Dekens, who noted that further studies are required assess the economic impacts of climate hazards on coffee production. “It is difficult to differentiate the costs associated with the impacts of climate risk on coffee production from other factors, such as reduced soil fertility and mismanagement, which also contribute to reduce coffee production in Uganda,” she concluded.