UGANDA: AGRICLUTURAL EXPERTS WORRY ABOUT INTRODUCTION OF TEA FARMING IN NORTHERN UGANDA.

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Mr. Edwin Atukunda, at Lugore Prison farm.

“When I decided to start tea nursery bed in Lugore Prison in Gulu, I had experimented before and realized the prison farm had loamy soil and red in color. My finding was that tea is doing very well in northern Uganda because the seedlings were doing very well in Nursery bed, much more than seedlings in central, western and southern regions of the country”

“Tea needs a lot of rainfall, but in Northern Uganda, which used to have wet and dry rainfall patterns, now has less rainfall. Besides that, land conflict is deeply rooted in Acholi Sub-region where people may not take tea growing easily”

GULU-UGANDA: By 1900, the British Colonialists had signed Uganda-British Protectorate Agreement with the Buganda King, Sir Edward Mutesa. The British colonial administrators had in mind that Northern Uganda was not suitable for growing Tea and Coffee.

It was a deliberate policy for the British oversea government not to introduce perennial crops like Coffee and Tea in Northern Uganda. Agricultural experts say it was a policy of marginalization to make Acholi, Lango, Teso and Koramoja Sub-Regions to remain economically bankrupt

Tea and coffee estates were developed in the Southern and western part of Uganda, especially in Buganda, Ankole, Toro, Kigezi, Busoga and Bugisu Sub-Regions.Labor forces to these estates had always been drown from northern and Eastern Uganda where they lived in squalid camps in abject poverty.

Even after independence in 1962 the new indigenous leaders never considered to introduce tea and coffee growing in the Greater North despite the fact Acholi Sub-Region used to receive more rainfall than any other region that is considered suitable for tea and coffee plantations.

However, Mr. Edwin Atukunda, a tea expert, is already challenging the colonial administrators and past post-colonial governments by introducing tea farming in Acholi Sub-Region in 2018.

Atukunda says tea does well in Acholi Sub-Region because the soil PHD should be 4.5 acidic to 6.0 and has initiated a pilot project in partnership with Uganda Prison services at Lugore prison farm in Gulu district to prove him right.

Mr. Atukunda is a tea farmer in Busenyi District in  Western Uganda who has worked with Mukwano, Madhvani, and Mehta tea estates, all located in central, eastern and southern Uganda for over 20 years.

“When I decided to start tea nursery bed in Logore Prison in Gulu, I had experimented before and realized the prison farm had loamy soil and red in color. My finding was that tea is doing very well in northern Uganda because the seedlings were doing very well in Nursery bed, much more than seedlings in central, western and southern regions of the country”, Mr. Atukunda reveals.

He added that when he started tea nursery bed in January 2019 he found that the seedling was doing well almost more than the seedling in Western Uganda, “So he decided to expand the tea nursery bed at Lugore Prisons Farm.” Atukunda argued.

The tea seedlings in nursery bed that are ready for plantation in the first raining season of 2020 are about  300,000, which can be planted in about ten tea acres. He says he intends to register about five farmers in the eight districts of Acholi sub-region who can plant at least five acres each (one hectare) of tea, maintain and managed it well for demonstration purposes.

“In the process of introducing tea growing in Northern Uganda, we shall be training youths on how they can raise their tea seedlings, how they can managed tea nursery beds, transplant it and he art of management of tea garden”, he says.

He says tea can take about three years to mature and adds that after demonstrating that tea can do very well in the north, he shall roll out planting tea massively and that he expects government or any investor to establish a tea processing factory in each of the eight districts in the sub-region.

Currently there are two varieties of tea, 303/577, which was imported from neighboring Kenya and 6/8 that they are experimenting on but added that they are planning to introduce purple tea in Northern Uganda as well.

Neighboring Oyam district has already registered 145 farmers who are only waiting for seedlings, come first rain in 2020.

According to Ms. Beatrice Lajara Kumago, the Coordinator for Gulu and Omoro Districts Farmer Associations it will be an up-hill task to make sensitization to the farmer. Since the North was introduced to food crops, while the south w to embrace tea growing since they are now used to growing food crops only. She adds a few farmers have already embraced coffee growing although it was introduced more than ten years ago.

“Our farmers still do not have the capacities to produce tea seedlings and they are also lacking the technical know-how on how to grow tea, by introducing tea seedling, we need to work with Edwin Atukunda, because our soil is very fertile” says Ms. Lajara Kumago.

She express worry when the farmer pick up tea farming, because the government is talking about introducing zoning industry like northern Uganda will have fruit processing industries for groundnuts, sesame, mangoes, oranges and so on which the north is known for growing them.

Ms. Lajara Kumago adds that tea farming has big challenges in Northern Uganda because the region, which used to have heavy rain pattern in the country, now has intermittent rainfall because of forest degradation in the past decade.

“Tea needs a lot of rainfall, but in Northern Uganda, which used to have wet and dry rainfall patterns, now has less rainfall. Besides that, land conflict is deeply rooted in Acholi Sub-region where people may not take tea growing easily”, she says.

However, tea can grow very well in Laturturu plateau which is located in Lamwo district close to Uganda-Sudan boarder and also in Acheng plateau in Odek Sub-County, Omoro District.

Mr. Gilbert Openytoo, the Prison Commander narrates that Laturturu plateau is also suitable for tea growing since President Amin introduced coffee planting in 1976 which is performing well making it equally favorable for tea plantation estates grow in the region.

  

      

 

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