Ugandan coffee farmer Allan Green is deploying modern technology like drip irrigation and artificial mulching to beat the effects of climate change, which is making production of the crop increasingly tougher in Africa’s top exporter of the bean. In September 2023, government officials, business executives, and climate campaigners met in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to discuss how to scale up climate finance and transform food systems.
Farmers like Green provide insights into what technologies are working in Africa and how they can be leveraged to overcome the effects of climate change in countries like Uganda, where traditional rain patterns are shifting and some areas are turning drier and less favorable to coffee growing.
Coffee farmers in Uganda say rains are starting late or earlier than they traditionally did, and sometimes they are below normal or too intense and destructive, while droughts are getting longer and harsher.
To grow coffee successfully in Uganda now, Green said, a farmer must invest in climate mitigation measures, especially irrigation systems, to help keep the plants healthy when rains fail or are too short.
Green established his Wells Coffee Farm in 2021 and expects his first harvest of beans by November. He says his ambition is to plant 1,000 acres.
On a recent day, Green inspected some of his lush green trees, whose beans are starting to ripen. Some younger ones that need more delicate care stand in the middle of square-shaped synthetic films that act as artificial mulching mats, helping keep the plant’s root zone moist and free from weeds.
Nearby, a 15-million-liter water reservoir helps supply him with water that a solar-powered pump helps deliver to the plants in drips via pipes crisscrossing the farm.
Uganda relies on coffee as one of its biggest sources of foreign exchange and is also a key source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of households.
In the 2022–23 (July–June) coffee year, the country took in US$846 million from shipments of 5.8 million 60-kilogram bags of beans. The country tops Africa in annual exports of the crop, followed by Ethiopia.
Officials have long worried about the effects of climate change on the production of the crop and say phenomena like frequent droughts and rising temperatures are exacerbating pests and diseases.
In a 2013 report Oxfam, too, said the rising effects of climate change in Uganda meant areas suitable for growing Arabica, of two coffee varieties grown in Uganda, will reduce drastically.
Ugandan coffee researcher, Catherine Kiwuka says that some farmers in the country are now growing a local coffee bean, that is more drought-resistant.
Green, who is financing his farm partly with a loan said policymakers and governments needed to prioritize finding a way to provide farmers with cheap and long-term credit to help farmers afford the technologies needed to blunt the effects of climate change.