Coffee Farmers Eye Big Cash With Solar-Powered Plant

Coffee Farmers Under The National Union Of Coffee Agribusiness And Farm Enterprise (Nucafe) Are Set To Earn More From The Sale Of Carbon-Neutral Coffee

Coffee Farmers Eye Big Cash With Solar-Powered Plant

This follows the installation of a 172KW industrial solar energy at their Namanve-based NUCAFE factory.

The first of its kind in Uganda, the rooftop industrial solar is expected to cut farmers’ electricity costs by 60% while that of the plant (NUCAFE) will decline by 40%, according to the NUCAFE executive director, Joseph Nkandu.

“Electricity is expensive; it touches deeper into the pockets of farmers, but solar will reduce the coffee processing expenses related to electricity for our farmers,” he said. He made the remarks during the commissioning in Namanve recently.

Nkandu said farmers have been on average paying sh4m monthly for electricity, eating into their profitability.

He said the 40% cost that farmers will continue paying is to enable them recover the investment made.

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As a membership organisation, NUCAFE has about 1.5 million smallholder farmers, organised in 200 farmer co-operatives and associations, representing over 250,000 families.

Additionally, Nkandu said the industrial solar energy will also enable them to contribute to the attainment of the SustainableDevelopment Goals. This will be specially Goal 7, which aims at ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and Goal 13, which talks about taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, as it will curb carbon emissions.

By installing solar, Nkandu said, NUCAFE has been able to avoid over 1.2 metric tonnes of carbon emissions from being emitted into the atmosphere in just over six days.

“This is a great milestone that will benefit coffee farmers, who will sell ecologically friendly coffee,” he said, adding that NUCAFE is committed to using green energy.

The project was implemented with financial support from aBi and the Nordic Climate Facility Initiative of the Nordic Development Fund. They also had technical support from Niras International, Astonfi eld and Makerere University’s technical team and the installation was by Village Energy Ltd. The Village Energy Systems engineer, Sammy Ssenyonga, said the plant has a payback period of between four to five years, after which NUCAFE will start enjoying free power for the next 25 years. He said the 442solar panel plant is currently generating almost 100% of the capacity required.

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Enhance value addition

The aBi Group chief executive officer, Josephine Mukumbya, also commended NUCAFE for the achievement, saying it will enable smallholder farmers to be traced back and earn a premium for their carbon-free coffee.

She added that the innovation will make a lot of change in the region and pledged continued support to NUCAFE.

Mukumbya, however, called for increased value addition to prolong products’ shelf-life, saying the COVID-19 crisis has proved price resilience for valued added products, whose price never collapsed as much as that for unprocessed products, such as matooke.

“There is need for Uganda to focus more on agriculture, especially value addition in coffee and dairy, to ensure that farmers do not get a price collapse. COVID-19 has been an eye opener to us in many ways. One of them is the resilience of the coffee sector. While other sectors have collapsed, coffee exports have been growing,” she said.

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Emulate

Michael Davis Jr. from Astonfi eld Solar commended NUCAFE for the project, saying it introduces solar energy in Uganda’s industrial sector. He added that this makes NUCAFE the first company in East Africa to produce carbon-free coffee, which is a good selling point for the coffee.

He alluded to Uganda’s abundant sunshine, which he said is a great resource that should be fully harnessed to support the growth of the industrial sector.

He commended NUCAFE on the project, saying it is the first company in East Africa to produce carbon-free coffee, which he said is a good selling point. Davis Jr. also encouraged other processors to emulate the project so as to reduce production costs and improve business competitiveness.

It should be noted that Uganda is said to have one of the most expensive power tariffs, which increases the cost of doing business.

This news was originally published at newvision.co.ug

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