Increased Income with Coffee and Bananas

Sustainable agriculture is good for the planet and shade grown coffee is ideal. In Uganda in East Africa coffee farmers had been encouraged to cut down the highland forests to plant coffee. A new approach confirms the value of growing coffee in at least partial shade and is more profitable as well. All Africa reports about climate smart coffee and bananas and the increase coffee farmers’ incomes.

Ugandan farmers are increasingly inter-planting coffee, the country’s primary export, and banana, a staple food, as a way of coping with the effects of climate change.

Studies by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and partner organizations show that a Ugandan farmer gets 50 per cent more income from inter cropping coffee and banana than from growing either crop alone.

Conducted in over 30 districts of Uganda, the study showed that coffee yield remained the same when intercropped with bananas and the farmers gained additional income from the banana.

This approach increases coffee farmers’ incomes and moves away from industrial scale growing of coffee back toward a shade grown coffee approach.

With shade grown organic coffee the consumer gets healthy organic coffee and the grower preserves the natural environment. Coffee has traditionally been grown under a canopy of trees. This method of planting on hillsides helps prevent erosion as is still seen in regions of Colombia, Panama, and other parts of the world where coffee is grown on steep slopes. However, new sun tolerant coffee strains were introduced over the last two generations. These plants thrive in full sunlight and are capable of producing up to three times as many coffee beans as traditional coffee plants in a shaded environment. Unfortunately, in order to boost production rates growers use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides to protect the monoculture of coffee that they plant. By taking coffee out of its more normal habitat growers subject it to the same risks as other field crops and orchards in which individual infective pests can enter and destroy a crop. Considering that it can take a decade for coffee plants to mature an infection or infestation that destroys plants can be devastating. Thus the coffee planter who ceases to produce shade grown organic coffee can find himself trapped in a never ending cycle of herbicide, pesticide, and synthetic fertilizer use. The consumers of this coffee pay the price.

At least growing coffee with bananas is an economically viable step back toward traditional shade grown coffee.

The Home of Robusta

Uganda is where Robusta coffee beans got their start according to Coffee Review.

Uganda, situated in the Great Lakes region of central Africa at the headwaters of the Nile, is the original home of coffea canephora, or robusta. The main part of Uganda coffee production continues to be dry-processed robusta used in instant coffees and as cheap fillers in blends. Uganda also produces excellent wet-processed arabicas, however, virtually all grown by villagers on small plots

Coffee marketed as Wugar is grown on mountains bordering Zaire along Uganda’s western border. More admired is Bugisu or Bugishu, from the western slopes of Mt. Elgon on the Kenya border. Bugisu is another typically winy, fruit-toned African coffee, usually a rougher version of Kenya.

Coffee farmers in Uganda are seeing increased income with coffee and bananas planted side by side.

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