Building Coffee Farmers Alliances

A project focusing on farmer aggregation in Uganda created an enabling environment for future R&R projects

Download Case Study

PDF File - 153kb

  • R&R type Grant-based technical assistance and capacity build
  • Country Uganda1
  • Costs ~USD 4 million
  • Dates 2009-2013

Project Context

  • Coffee farmers in Uganda typically have low yields, are unorganized, and have weak connections to markets. There is a lack of aggregation points to reach farmers and to implement project activities.

Objectives, Activities, and Results

  • The project seeks to improve livelihoods of coffee SHFs through improved coffee production and increased revenues. The first step is to aggregate producers into organized groups.
  • The project aggregated SHFs into two-tiered organizations:
    • 570 “Producers Organizations” (PO) at village level;
    • 32 “Depot Committees” (DC) combining 20-30 POs at sub-county level.
  • The project also created the apex organization “Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance (UCFA)”. Its key function is to support the marketing of the coffee bulked by the DCs and facilitating linkages with other service providers (e.g. inputs, technical assistance)
  • These organizations serve as entry points to implement various activities that lead to positive results:
    • Yield uplifts (from 1kg per tree per year to 2.5-2.7kg).
    • Quality improvement (adoption of better harvesting and post-harvesting practices).
    • Positive outcomes in gender-related activities (e.g. joint household planning and decision making, equitable access to household resources).
  • Value creation: strengthened SHF capacity, increased yields of least productive SHFs, and improved livelihoods
  • Value capture: the program finances a public good – finance providers do not directly capture the value created.

Project Context

Management of the three R&R Components


HRNS, DCs, POs, third party companies.

Challenges faced
Only 34% of SHFs used inputs before the start of project.

Access to inputs, for demonstrations, was a key component of the program. Various activities such as the distribution of free seedlings and fertilizers to farmers holding demonstration plots led to a doubling in the use of inputs by SHFs.


Various sources2

Challenges faced
Farmers, in general, lack access to finance andare not able to cover expenses associated with improved production techniques.

The project supported the formation of several “VillageSaving and Loan Associations” by strengthening financial literacyof farmers. A pilot project for commercial lending has beendesigned by KFW, Opportunity Bank, HRNS, and UCFA.



Challenges faced
Lack of managerial and agronomic knowledge at organization and farmer levels.

HRNS has trained DC leadership in managerial capacities (coffee management, book keeping and planning, auditing, market information, etc.) and farmers in good agricultural practices through the establishment of Farmer Field Schools . DCs monitor the ongoing FFS activities.

(1) The project evaluation was limited to two project regions in Uganda: Luwero and Bukomansimbi. All figures mentioned in this case study refer to the evaluation in these two regions. Source: HRNS, Building Coffee Farmers’ Alliances in Uganda Project evaluation, 2013.
(2) Program funders include the European Union (EU), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, International Coffee Partners (ICP), USAID, Agribusiness Initiative (aBi), Plan Uganda, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Douwe Egberts Foundation (DEF). Funders entered at different stages of the project. Source: HRNS, Building Coffee Farmers’ Alliances in Uganda Project evaluation, 2013.

Lessons Learned

  • Organizing farmers is a prerequisite to be able to implement R&R program
    Providing R&R packages to disconnected farmers comes at high cost and with low efficiency. The structures created by HRNS (POs, DCs and UCFA) enable third parties and sector stakeholders to easily reach farmers with their services, paving the way for future R&R programs. They also served as entry points for other structures (e.g. NGOs specialized in health and education).

  • Success largely depends on the ability to provide technical advice to farmer organizations (DCs and POs)
    Farmer organizations should have the ability to provide TA and to manage loans to farmers. Currently, DCs have weak management and financial capacities and require more assistance. UFCA has not enough capacity to fully support TA to DCs, and relies heavily on external finance (approx. 75%) This has improved to about 60%.

  • Farmer organizations should provide extension services to farmers on a professional basis
    The farmer adoption rate of GAP was, on average, high, but providing extension services on a purely voluntary basis is not sustainable. Farmer organizations need to hire staff specifically dedicated to implementing extension service

Learn more and get involved

There is a lot of work to be done to ensure the long-term supply of coffee from countries where the crop has long shaped the social and economic fabric. Learning to extend the life of their trees and improve yields helps farmers stabilize annual production and in turn, income, while the rest of the world benefits from a steady supply of quality coffee. Continue on to learn more about the immediate attention and action that is required to make this a reality.