Tea in Northern Uganda: EFOTI signs important MoUs, gov’t yet to fund project


Some of the Amuru youths given free tea plantlets by EFOTI Director (M).

Gulu—21 October 2020: Currently, in northern Uganda’s district of Gulu and Zombo, primarily, it’s very rare for someone to talk about coffee, maize, beans and leave out tea. The latter has become a dominant subject, and a promising venture for the farmers in the region.

Through the initiative of the Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative Ltd, popularly known as EFOTI, northern Uganda has embarked of tea growing, with Zombo alone having more than 400 tea farmers and an active Tea Cooperatives.

In Gulu, Prime Cooperative Savings and Credit Society Ltd is the latest farmers’ organisation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with EFOTI.

In the MoU under the caption “Joint Private Partnership to Improve Tea Research, Production and Productivity in Acholiland” signed on 18 March 2020, Prime Coop Sacco Ltd and EFOTI, agreed to work in the following areas:

  1. Collaboratively establish mother gardens at Kulukeno village, Owoo sub-county, Aswa County, Gulu district and in other tea growing districts, especially where access to quality planting materials of good tea varieties is a big challenge.
  2. Collaboratively work on tea nursery establishment and management and multiply specialty teas (Purple and China).
  3. Building capacity of tea nursery operators, tea farmers especially in places where tea growing has started in recent years.
  4. Acquiring and introducing good quality tea clones for easy access by farmers.
  5. Conducting soil analysis in areas where tea has been recently introduced.
  6. Conducting comprehensive trainings on agronomic and good agricultural practices of tea growing to all tea stakeholders
  7. Enhancing value addition and marketing in tea value chain, manufacturing, packaging and marketing of green tea and other products.
  8. Introducing and expanding tea growing in the entire Acholiland which are deemed suitable for tea.
  9. Any other areas deemed necessary by the two parties.

Mr Oyat Francis Otoo, the Prime Sacco chairperson, says the cooperative is registered with Registrar of Cooperatives and have been in operations since 2007 in Gulu district.

“Our Sacco is instrumental in supplementing government efforts by implementing all the Sacco’s related business/programs as a whole by mobilising, sensitizing, conducting research, proving training opportunities to students from different training institutions, product/service development and training its members on different aspect to develop, uplift and provide conducive opportunities for her members and entire Acholi sub-region to move out of poverty,” Mr Oyat said.

EFOTI will collaboratively work with Prime Sacco’s focal persons on proper tea establishment, tea planting and management.

In August 2018, EFOTI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) – Rwebitaba Zonal Agricultural Research and development Institute (RweZARDI) under Joint Public Private Partnership To Improve Tea Research, Production and Productivity.

The agreement was to ensure the implementation of the followings:

  1. Establishment and managing mother gardens at Rwebitaba and in other tea growing districts, especially where access to quality planting materials of good tea varieties is a big challenge.
  2. Tea nursery establishment and management and multiply specialty teas
  3. Building capacity of tea nursery operators, especially in places where tea growing started in recent years
  4. Acquiring and introducing good quality tea clones for easy access by farmers.
  5. Conducting further soil analysis in areas where tea has been recently introduced or to be introduced.
  6. Conducting comprehensive trainings on agronomic and good agricultural practices of tea growing to all tea stakeholders.
  7. Enhancing value addition and marketing in tea value chain, manufacturing, packaging and marketing of green tea and other products.
  8. Introducing and expanding tea growing in new places which are deemed suitable for tea.

Mr Edwin Atukunda Beekunda, the founder and director of EFOTI, says he has gone ahead to implement some of the agreement terms even when government and relevant agencies are yet to support his initiative.

Like in Zombo, through his organisation, EFOTI, tea farmers once disintegrated have come together under their umbrella body, Zombo Tea Growers Cooperative Society Limited.

EFOTI has enhanced the capacity of tea farmers in Zombo, and the farmers under their body have officially allowed Mr Atukunda and his organisation to help them.

In a letter of authorisation dated 19 August 2019, signed by Mr Okello Jimmy, the Coop chairperson, he wrote: “Zombo Tea Growers Cooperative Society Ltd is an organisation for all tea growers in Zombo district. It is formally registered with the Registrar of Cooperatives under the Cooperative Societies Act with over 140 members….”

“The Cooperative Society has been playing a central role in mobilisation, sensitisation and training its members and the people of Zombo about tea growing, as well working with other partners in implementation of activities geared towards the tea project development,” he added.

Both Zombo Coop and EFOTI agreed to work in the areas of management of existing tea fields, collaboratively work on proper tea nursery establishment, tea planting and management; capacity building of farmers and members, conducting comprehensive trainings on agronomic and good agricultural practices, value addition and marketing in tea value chain, among others.

With some of the above working accords, and more expected to be signed, Mr Atukunda says, because tea farmers and their umbrella bodies are financially struggling either due to Covid-19 prolonged lockdown, or lack of funding from government, it’s now a right time government rush to support tea development in northern Uganda.

“NARO, NAADS should come down here and see what we have done. This is the high time for government to not think twice, but once and support tea project in northern Uganda,” Mr Atukunda says.

He says, with more than 400 registered Prime Sacco members, the figure is good enough for tea development in Acholi sub-region.

Currently, some acres of tea planted at Lugore prison farms are ready for harvesting, but Atukunda says because there is no factory, there is nowhere to take the green leaves.

Like in Zombo, more than 100 acres of tea gardens are ready to be harvested but no factory to process it.

“Like now, if we had a factory in Zombo, we would transport green leaves from Gulu there, while we wait for government to put another factory here,” Atukunda, who has been in tea venture for more than 30 years, told TND News.

Besides lack of funding by government, he believes that soon tea farmers in the region will be supported, and top on his mind is seeing a tea factory established.

“I want to thank Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) team; Brig Geoffrey Kawesa Kigozi for believing that there is tea in northern Uganda, I want to thank Acholi and West Nile leaders; the Alur Kingdom’s Highness and his Cabinet, Rwot Acana of Ker Kwaro Acholi and his cabinet, the LC5 chairpersons of Gulu and Zombo and their respective local governments for offering me the opportunity to promote tea in the region,” EFOTI director conveys his appreciation.

Equally, he thanked State Minister for Northern Uganda, Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny for overwhelming support towards promoting tea, and bringing together tea farmers in Zombo, and Northern Uganda in general.

Some farmers in Amuru and Nwoya districts have in recent days promised to work closely with EFOTI, and to undertake tea farming massively.

Prospects and challenges affecting tea farming in northern Uganda

Despite the importance of tea as the third traditional export earner [commodity] in Uganda—other tea farming sub-region [region] in the country are seeing their tea getting spoiled because of many factors.

The chairperson Prime Sacco Gulu Mr Oyat Francis Otoo (M) receiving tea plantlets from Mr Atukunda (2nd from L) while a team from Namulonge Research Center looks on. They assured EFOTI of full support.

Tea is one of the ten crops identified in agricultural sector development strategy and investment plan, thus a viable tool for driving the vision 2040 agenda [Economy Policy Research Center, 2014].

“Tea production is important to the economy because it has no season, and is harvested throughout the year,” tea expert, Mr Atukunda reveals.

With some regions in the country now benefiting ‘a lot from tea’ — in northern Uganda—tea took off amidst low interest from farmers. This was because, prior, tea planted and were doing relatively well would not be harvested nor well managed.

Farmers were also getting low support from government even when the latter did supply them with plantlets, and another factor for it was that farmers’ capacities on tea management, decentring, harvesting, among others were not considered.

Since 2018 when EFOTI—a company with vast experience in tea farming, research, farm management, nursery bed establishment and other fields, arrived in West Nile and Gulu respectively, farmers’ hopes have resumed.


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