Zombo – It’s too false that tea in northern Uganda is still an imagination to many. The reality is that it exists, many hectres now planted and small scale production has started, in recent months.
All these are attributed to one man, Edwin Atukunda Beekunda whose passion for tea farming in the region is high.
Mr. Atukunda Edwin is the founder and executive director (ED) of The Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative Limited (EFOTI).
He’s the first man to introduce tea farming in Kamwenge district – Western Uganda. Todate, Kamwenge boasts of close to 3,000 tea farmers.
The EFOTI interventions to rescue tea farming in northern Uganda – where it was introduced around 2014, has seen many people embracing the enterprise and also witnessing first tea production, The Zombo Tea and Zombo Royal Tea, respectively.
Jimmy Okello, the chairperson of Zombo Tea Outgrowers Cooperative Society told TND News on Thursday afternoon that there are so many success stories to talk about.
“Farmers have now come together and we have all embraced it. Another success story is that we have been blessed to meet people like Edwin Atukunda,” Mr. Okello said.
He added: “There’s a promise and people are getting involved and we are signing a Memorandum of Understanding with him (Edwin) soon.”
The Cooperative chairperson says when Mr. Atukunda came to Zombo, people started having interest in him.
He describes the tea expert – Atukunda a “radical man – so practical man”.
According to him, EFOTI has employed over 80 workers who are working in the Alur Kingdom tea farm and they are being paid good wages for their labor.
“After that, he’s coming back to the Cooperative tea farm,” he reveals.
By next year, he says they should have 100 hectres of tea farm, an increment of 20 hectres from the current 80.
In Zombo district, he says there are about 500 committed tea farmers, and about 150 under Cooperative.
Simmilarily, Oringtho Samuel who’s the chairperson supervisory committee of Zombo Tea Outgrowers Cooperative Society says when tea was first introduced in Zombo district almost seven years ago, they have been lacking technical skills in tea management.
He also says district was supplying them tea for planting at a wrong season, adding that it has since changed after agricultural officer intervened.
“The tea is picking up but we’re abit poor. We’re poor and we needed some money for management,” Mr. Oringtho told this contemporary online newspaper, Thursday.
With challenges they had, he says they almost “gave up” until they were encouraged the area was suitable for tea farming and market would be available.
He applauded State Minister for Northern Uganda, Honourable Grace Freedom for taking the initiative and introducing Edwin Atukunda to them.
“Initially, the planting was not proper so he came and reorganised tree planting and we have picked interest and he’s a person who can work physically,” Oringtho said of Atukunda.
Last week, the Agricultural Officer of Zombo visited the Foundation and Zombo Tea Cooperative garden where he appreciated the intervention and quick adaptation.
The agricultural officer witnessed the hands on trainings farmers were being offered.
“Decentering or bringing tea into bearing to increasing tea production is what we have been through,” Mr. Atukunda said on Tuesday.
He added that decentering is done “to see more branches sprout out. The more branches, the more shots/leaves.”
“Tea management is more practical by experience.That’s why we have been with tea farmers for some time,” Mr. Edwin added.