From Peruvian potatoes to Ugandan coffee


What does the potato sector in Peru have in common with the coffee sector in Uganda? This is the story of an Ugandan public officer that has been a bridge of knowledge to empower small coffee farmers in his country and encourage them to engage large businesses and export markets.

Research on the case of the Andean potato has shown it to be an interesting and successful case of how the domestic market can play a key role in the development of contract farming. Papa Andina’s achievements include the entry of small-scale Andean farmers into high value urban markets. In Uganda the government is strengthening conditions in the coffee sector to promote contract farming. Both the potato in Peru and coffee in Uganda are important crops for small farmers. In Peru the potato is cultivated in 19 of the country’s 25 regions, it constitutes the staple food for Andean people, it produces more income than any other crop, and it provides 110,000 jobs in 600,000 small agrarian units, without considering related jobs in industry and services[1]. In Uganda, coffee is the most important commercial agricultural commodity, and a major foreign exchange earner, providing income for over 1.5 million households and contributing an annual average of 20% of Uganda’s total export revenue in the last ten years[2].

James Kizito-Mayanja is an enthusiastic and committed Ugandan public officer. He is the Market Intelligence and Information Manager for the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). James has been a bridge of knowledge between the potato sector in Peru and the coffee sector in Uganda. He participated in a Learning Alliance under the ELLA Programme, a UK Aid funded south-south knowledge initiative that mixes research, exchange and learning to inspire evidence-based policies and practices. Together with GRADE, a Peruvian think tank, Practical Action Consulting Latin America ran a Learning Alliance on Smallholder Farmers and Rural Development in which James and peers from Latin America, Africa and Asia, discussed contract framing among many other issues. After a four-month dialogue, it was clear for all participants that the heterogeneity of actors engaged in the commercial dealings between large agribusinesses and small family farms is a common denominator in their countries; and that whether small-scale farmers can benefit from contract farming will depend on the type of crop, the behaviour of the business firm and the policy environment.  So what was the case in Peru potato and Ugandan coffee sectors?

As part of the Learning Alliance, James visited Peru in May 2013. During the study tour, he learnt that contract farming could be a viable venture with small farmers able to engage large businesses even to access export markets. He also saw that farmers’ knowledge of the market requirements (prices and quality adherence) were critical in enhancing competitiveness and consequently sustainability. Just like in Uganda, James also saw that monitoring and evaluation was a key component in the promotion of contract farming.

Toasted coffee grains

© Practical Action Peru

When James returned to Uganda, he was convinced that farmers’ productivity and incomes could increase if Uganda took certain actions to help contract farming.  He saw the need for improved inter-ministerial coordination, adequately resourced local authorities and greater farmer participation in demanding the services required from government.

James intention was to liaise with authorities to discuss how they could use the lessons from small holder farming in Peru into the coffee sector in Uganda. He was looking forward to contributing to the development of the new National Coffee Policy and its implementation. He shared the lessons learnt from the tour with UCDA top management, the Board of Directors of the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) and the Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance (UCFA). He facilitated discussions on the extent to which good practices in Peru were being applied in Uganda. He also linked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Water and Environment and National Forestry Authority officials.

Together with NUCAFE and UCFA, James helped achieve an increase in the funding for cooperatives and farmer organizations, and to improve the access to markets by small coffee farmers through training in business skills. James wanted the same for Ugandan farmers that he saw in Peru: “We visited FOVIDA which empowered farmers who were able to sell to supermarkets. These were farmers from high up in the Andes. So when I came back the question was how to empower our farmers with farmer organisations (…) if they are empowered, they will know how to reduce their cost of production, where to sell their product, and also to address quality issues.

Three years afterwards, James declared: we implemented what we learned in the two weeks study tour in Peru and the four month e-learning interaction”. That knowledge, James’ experience, and the political will of the authorities, have contributed to the good things that are happening in the coffee sector in Uganda. Back in August 2013, a new National Coffee Policy was launched after a highly consultative process involving all key stakeholders in Government, the coffee industry, non-government institutions and cross sections of society[3]. Subsequently the UCDA has promoted the development and implementation of the National Coffee Strategy working hand in hand with NUCAFE, in the Fourth Uganda National Coffee Farmers’ Convention[4]. As part of this effort, the UCDA has trained farmers’ trainers on five modules: (i) Coffee Farming as a Business (ii) Access to Agro-inputs and output markets (iii) Agribusiness Procedures: What does it take to trade (iv) Coffee Value Chain and its Dynamics (v) Governance of Farmer Organizations[5]. James suggested there was a need for a critical mass of trainers in coffee agribusiness to increase farmers’ productivity and earnings, and to link farmers to the market through win-win contracts.

Mercado en Kampala, Uganda

© Jake Stimpson @ Flickr (

Training coffee farmers in Uganda has entailed changing the mindset from selling a rough and ready product to selling a finished product that reflects the demands of the market: “[In Peru] farmers were able to know their production costs, and their marketing costs, and they were also able to know how to price different products [reflecting an understanding of] what the market demands. For me, small-scale producers need to know with certainty the kind of product that the market wants, what sells, and able to produce these. (In Uganda) we hope that farmers will now not only be exporting but also adding value, improving quality, and also roasting. They will be selling a finished product. They will not be selling green coffee. The Farmer Ownership Model, which is similar to what FOVIDA is using, where farmers integrate upwards right from production, processing, and do the marketing (…) This is a model which is now being embraced in the all of the African region”.

James is clear about the need to train farmers to enter into business: “After my visit to Peru what I’m taking now to Uganda is that small-scale farming is business. I’m happy that after three years I’m seeing that the capacity of small-scale farmers in agribusiness is being built especially in the two organisations [that I work with], NUCAFE and UCFA. I also see farmers integrating upwards”.

 James’ experience also confirms that training is firmly in the government’s mandate: “Once people know how our local government and the central governments are working hand in hand to ensure effective participation and inclusion, once people know that growth is not exclusive and that their capacity is built, then we can expect higher returns (for the farmers)”.

 Another common feature that James identified between the potato sector in Peru and the coffee sector in Uganda is the gender challenge in rural areas and the transformative and powerful role that women can play: “(In Peru) when we went to the Ica region and discussed with the farmers organisations, we saw women leaders who were very engaging, we saw them contributing. I came back to ensure that Ugandan farmers are empowered, but on top of that to ensure that there is equality in gender”.  There have been efforts in this direction including the “Gender based advocacy for the implementation of the National Coffee Policy in Uganda activity” implemented by the NUCAFE in April 2015[6].

Stories like James Kizito-Mayanja’s and his role in the Ugandan coffee sector show that south-south exchange can contribute to change when there are windows of opportunity, and where programmes work with committed, capable individuals able to deploy the knowledge they picked up when the opportunity develops.

In the ELLA programme UK Aid bet on the benefits of south-south learning. James’s story is just one case among the many registered by the programme.  Knowledge exchange between regions of the ´global south’ can work, even where countries are very different, when sufficient attention is paid to identifying and understanding context. In this case, James took the lessons from Peruvian potato farmers for enriching national policies and plans with coffee producers in Uganda.

[1] La papa: Principales Aspectos de la Cadena Agroproductiva, Ministerio de Agricultura, 2012

[2] National Coffee Policy – August 2013.

[3] National Coffee Policy, August 2013.

[4] NUCAFE report on The 4th Uganda National Coffee Farmers’ Convention held at UMA Main Exhibition Hall, Lugogo, 11th September 2013.

[5] Field Report on TOTs Agribusiness Manual-Mityana.

[6] Final report by NUCAFE “Advocay Workshop-Mosa Courts, April 2015”

This article has been written by Alicia Quezada, Manager of Practical Action Consulting Latin America, and is based on an interview with James Kizito-Mayanja (4 March 2016) and programme reports, including reports on the Learning Alliance on Smallholder farmers “Small-scale farming: successes and limitations of market reforms”, “The Papa Andina case”, a video documentary on the Learning Alliance on Smallholder farmers and rural development, and James Kizito-Mayanja report “Study Tour in Peru on small farmers empowerment 20-29 May 2013”.
You can contact Mark Lewis if you want to know more about the ELLA Programme and Alicia Quezada if you want to engage with Practical Action Consulting Latin America.
CCThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
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