For a very long time now, President Yoweri Museveni talks about importance of domestic coffee growing and production which he says is one of the main sources that earns millions of shillings to the country through exports. “It has international market, maybe the price can go down a bit but they will buy it, on our side we must harvest and dry the coffee properly to get better price” President quoted in one of his public addresses on coffee production. As one of the measures to achieve this target, government in 2017 through Office of the Prime Minister under Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF 3) subcontracted Inspire Africa Coffee to establish coffee shops in some selected municipalities for implantation of a project that targets youth who were trained on management of coffee production processes. Part of this project included components of enterprises like catering, salon, events management, catering and entertainments as alternative sources of income for more than 200 youths registered and organized in 20 groups, these would be besides selling of coffee as the main focus. Not so long after the launch of this project in 2019, the youth groups disintegrated following delay to start the activities as planned earlier. Fred Agani is one of the youths who were set to benefit from this project. “Upto now there is no communication about the project from C.E.O (of Inspire Africa Coffee) and Coordinator” he reveals, attributing the communication gap as a factor for disintegration of groups. Before the launch of this project in 2019, a house with large open room, now in its dilapidated state was constructed on the Western side of Post Office premise in Arua town opposite Arua Central Police Station. Inside the building, structures to place machines for processing coffee are constructed and ceiling made of ply wood is already falling. On the compound of this structure lies 4 mobile coffee shops dumped many years ago, these have since become temporary store to unknown people where they keep their properties. At the moment, there is not clear information about this project from both Arua District NUSAF office and Arua City, formerly a municipality before elevation. Leaders claim that implementation of this project was done without involving the authorities. The project amount equally remains unclear due to absence of documents, but leaders who spoke off record estimates more than 500 million shillings was given for implementation. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Community Facilitator who coordinated the project at NUSAF Arua office attributes the failure to lack of orientation. “The problem was that we were not oriented about the main components and how it would benefit the youths, even on implementation of the project. The district and municipal leadership were not too much involved” the source reveals citing that chances of failure were visible as youths were organized without knowledge of the two administrative unit leaders. Inspire Africa Coffee boasts of different sites established in the districts of Gulu, Lira, Dokolo, Mbale, Tororo, Arua and Kampala according the available information publish on its website. All these sites were expected to offer same services of coffee roasting, brewing, packaging and selling in different forms, but Arua since the time of establishment is not able to start. A visit to Gulu City in Northern Uganda indicates that the site currently with 35 staff is operating and offering all the services planned ranging from services in restaurant, supermarket and salon among other sections. According to Alfred Oyet, the Manager at this facility “Gulu branch is a stopover for people travelling to Kampala and other places, so at the end we serve entire Northern Uganda in terms of training, service provision, consultation benchmark”. Gulu site remains the only Inspire Africa Coffee shop established under the project in the region since Arua side meant to serve West Nile remains nonfunctional. Little or nothing is talked about the project in Arua, and NUSAF Desk office of the district has no documents to give information, this is the same to leaders in Arua City where the abandoned mobile coffee shops are lying. Arua Central Division Member of Parliament, Jackson Atima pledge to follow this matter from relevant offices and cause accountability for government fund. “Any establishment by government where money is injected must be put to the right use. Wherever the challenge is, I will come in to see that coffee shop is put to use and people in the region benefit from what government has established” he says. The Regional Coffee Extension Officer at Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Godwin Amege advise that, such government programs should be implemented in collaboration with authorities to register success. “We saw gap of not involving stakeholders, we recommend in such projects the stakeholders at district needs to be involved. Coffee being one of the key enterprises Inspire Africa was promoting, they really needed to also let UCDA the regional offices be aware of the interventions to get clear guidance” he recommends. Like in any other office, the Regional Inspectorate of Government of West Nile has no information about this project and could not give interview on record. Most of the youths who were registered and trained to benefit from the project have since lost interest, the 20 groups that were formed are no longer existing with no trace due to lack of document or record. The four mobile shops are still on Post Office compound in front of the house constructed to implement this project. Inspire Africa Coffee has not responded to request for interview by the time of compiling this report.
A story by Sabir Musa
Support for this project/story was provided by African Institute of Investigative Journalism (AIIJ) *