“We hope for a productive 2021 with a permanent cash crop from the North and the region may appear better,” Mr. Edwin Atukunda Beekunda says.
Gulu—23, December 2020: Some districts in Northern Uganda have embarked on tea growing and others have shown interest with different stakeholders already satisfied with the current development.
According to Mr. Edwin Atukunda Beekunda who’s the founding director at the Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative (EFOTI), the region’s lands are fit for tea—’more than other cash crops’, adding that in the next few years, there will be massive opportunities.
He reveals that the tea subsector will create at least 1,000 jobs per district in the initial. There are overover 40 districts in northern Uganda, and over 40,000 jobs would be created if all undertook tea growing.
Mr. Atukunda also says the 1,000 or more per district would be trained and able to establish and manage commercial tea nursery beds, field establishment, and management, including good practices of tea production, among others.
So far, over 400 youth and women are benefiting through training in nursery bed establishment and the abovementioned areas under EFOTI.
“In tea, every farmer is employed and can employ all his family, it’s only the factory that may need skills but with the EFOTI on the ground with vast knowledge both in fields and factories future is bright fir northern Uganda. We dedicated 3 years and you can see the impact. We shall not leave (Northern Uganda) until we see a new north with tea,” Mr. Atukunda says.
“We hope for a productive 2021 with a permanent cash crop from the North and the region may appear better,” he added.
In November this year, EFOTI and Gulu University signed an agreement on commercial tea growing with both parties committed to championing tea production in the Acholi sub-region.
Gulu University becomes the second higher institution of learning after Muni University in Arua City to show a commitment to promote tea growing. However, the former has moved big steps ahead through the signing of documents.
Mr. Elly Endymion—Dean Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and Mr. Asaf Adebua—Director Planning are key University officials working closely with EFOTI experts.
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“The University’s motto, ‘Community Transformation’ means ‘to transform the wider community right from where the university is located and rightward’”, Mr. Asaf told TND News in November.
“For the collaboration or partnership between us, they (EFOTI) have informed us the soil is good, tea can grow, and they have started in West Nile (Zombo) and in Lugore,” he added, then.
While it has not been easy for EFOTI to convince people in the region to undertake tea besides cotton, coffee, simsim, groundnut, and others, Mr. Atukunda says “there is too much optimism in the region”, adding that “with the coming of Gulu University, Prime SAACO, Alur Kingdom and Kerkwaro Acholi, among other institutions, the populace will rapidly embrace tea”.
Similarly, Zombo and Gulu district local governments have all endorsed EFOTI intervention, and each district is expected to support EFOTI handle the technical aspect and training of farmers and other stakeholders.
According to UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), about 120,000 people were employed by tea estates in the Western Uganda districts of Bushenyi, Kabarole, Kanungu, and Kyenjonjo, and another estimate of 20,000 in the eastern Uganda districts of Jinja and Mukono.
The employment figures might have risen five years after, according to the EFOTI director who has been in the tea industry for over three decades and counting.
He says by 2025, about 50,000 people will be employed in tea, calling it “a tremendous opportunity”.
However, he says the figures will only be achieved if the government and different stakeholders will invest in tea projects across the region, and offer timely support to farmers and companies with experience to create results.
Registration of potential tea farmers began in early November this year in Acholi sub-region and over 200 have shown interest.