Kagera farmers form SACCOs to avoid ‘Butula’

BUKOBA: HOPE is now in sight for Kagera coffee farmers who for quite a long time had to borrow money from financial institutions while others were forced to sell the crop prematurely to middlemen at throw away price, a system known as ‘Butula’.

About 141 Agricultural and Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) comprising over 45,000 individual coffee farmers in Muleba, Bukoba DC, Missenyi and Bukoba MC unanimously agreed and formed the Kagera Kahawa Saccos Ltd and were in final stages to get registration.

Chairman of the Kagera Kahawa Saccos Ltd, Mr Onesmo Niyegila told the ‘Daily News’ in an interview that the decision was taken to save the farmers from high interest rates charged by financial institutions  and other unpredictable disasters.

He explained that for many decades farmers in Kagera Region have been growing coffee on their farms but most of them lack capital while others were forced to sell the crop prematurely to middlemen at throw away prices in a system known as ‘Butula’.

“On behalf of the farmers, I thank the government under the leadership of President Samia Suluhu for increasing the budget for the agricultural sector and supporting farmers in the country.

Tanzanian farmers in an effort to increase income through agriculture, should use these opportunities that are emerging to cultivate many types of crops so that they can achieve great success through the agricultural sector which employs many people,” he noted.

This comes after the government increased the budget to the Ministry of Agriculture, including reducing the price of fertilisers, its inputs as well as encouraging the private sector to invest and make agriculture start providing decent jobs for young people and women by significantly increasing the budget.

Presenting the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture for the year 2023/2024, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe said that the Ministry will continue to design and implement various strategies to ensure the agricultural sector reaches a growth of 10 per cent by the year 2030 and build a solid foundation to protect the economy towards the year 2050.

Mr Niyegila explained that the 141 AMCOS forming the Kagera Kahawa Saccos Ltd have a core capital amounting 1.064bn/- including shares and savings.

“While the registration process of the Saccos was ongoing the funds have been safely deposited in a special account under the Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU 1990 Ltd). We are hopeful the registration process will be completed soon,” he said.

He appealed to the farmers to ensure proper management and should process the coffee to add value and get attractive payments.

Mr Niyegila also encouraged the farmers to adhere to best crop husbandry practices by uprooting and destroy through burning the affected coffee trees, farm cleanliness, mulching and timely use of inputs and fertilisers.

They should replace the old coffee trees in favour of the clonal coffee varieties which are resistant to coffee wilt disease (CWD), for increased yields and earn more money.

The clonal varieties were high yielding and resistant to the coffee berry disease. A well-managed coffee plant could produce up to two kilogrammes enabling a farmer to pocket at least 6,000/- per kilogramme.

Clonal coffee yields three times more coffee and is resistant to the coffee wilt disease.

Kagera Region grows robusta coffee variety which constitutes 30 per cent of the total coffee production in Tanzania.

The word clonal means that the coffee plants have been multiplied asexually from a single parent plant or clone.  Kagera farmers produce robusta coffee which constitutes 50 per cent of the total coffee production in the country.

The Assistant Registrar for Cooperatives, Mr Robert George, on the other hand, appealed to the AMCOS leaders to ensure that they   upkeep proper book   records of properties including land and buildings.

Elaborating, he said many AMCOS ended up by getting qualified   audit reports    from auditors   simply because they do not possess proper book accounts and bank statements   of their properties.

A qualified audit report is a report issued by an auditor that reports certain discrepancies in the financial statement prepared by the entity.

“You should utilise services of government Land Surveyors to inspect and value your land and get title deeds. Also, make sure that you reply on time the audit queries directed on your Saccos,” he said.

Mr George made the remarks recently while addressing AMCOS leaders who attended a meeting held in Bukoba Municipal Council while also reminding   the AMCOS leaders to ensure that each coffee farmer opens a bank account where their payments would be channeled to avoid thefts.

The Cooperative Audit and Supervision Corporation (COASCO) was established in 1982 by an Act of Parliament No 15 of 1982. Its primary function was to provide audit, supervision and other consultancy services to Cooperative Unions in Tanzania.

The Act was amended by Parliament in April 2005 and assented by the President on June 6th, 2005 to empower the Corporation to extend its audit and consultancy services as well to non-Cooperative entities.

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