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Changing Climate May Ruin Coffee Production in Uganda

Changing weather patterns in Uganda may lead to the extinction of the east African country’s key export, coffee, in coming decades, a report by British charity Oxfam states.

Uganda is Africa’s second biggest coffee producer after Ethiopia and has become a major player in robusta coffee production since political unrest in the Ivory Coast slashed that nation’s coffee output.Coffee output in 2007/08 (Oct-Sept) is seen at 2.85 million bags, up from 2.7 million the year before.

The report, Turning up the Heat, Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda, stated that:

“The outlook is bleak. If the average global temperatures rises by two degrees or more, then most of Uganda is likely to cease to be suitable for coffee…this may happen in 40 years or perhaps as little as 30.”

“According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, only patches of land on the periphery will still be able to grow coffee…In the meantime, coffee farmers are going to have to adapt to rising temperatures.”

The report went on to state that effects of global warming like increasing temperature and more intense rainfall and storms, has led to erratic rainfall patterns in Uganda.

Across much of Uganda, the climate is bimodal, meaning that there are two rainy seasons — the first from March to June and the second from October/November to December/January. Rainfall during the rainy seasons has become unreliable, the report said, adding that reduced rain during the March to June season was causing drought, reductions in crop yields and plant varieties, while the late season rainfall was coming in more intense and destructive downpours, bringing floods, landslides and soil erosion.

“But, farmers have continued to invest in Uganda’s Robusta coffee and export earnings have continued to increase. This has helped protect losses from climatic problems,” said Philip Gitao, head of the East African Fine Coffees Association.Farmers have also adopted good husbandry practices such as using more hardy coffee plants, added Gitao, who was quoted in the Oxfam report.

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