In an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the communities, the office of the President in Uganda came up with several regulations. These, although necessary, have affected smallholder producer’s lives, including work and financial stability.
Nicodemus Bamuhangaine is in charge of extension and organic certification in Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU), a coffee producer cooperative in Uganda. He shares with us his experience and how he and his family are dealing with the current situation:
“For the temporary solution. Yes. Go farming, do agriculture. If you can access land you are not restricted in your movement to the farm area. Go and do farming! So when you have food then partly you are safe for the rest of the days. You never know, at any time when the pandemic is not longer here then you will sell food. Because you are not doing business. But in agriculture you can do fine things. Particularly me, that’s what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m doing agriculture.”
If you want to listen to Nicodemus’ whole testimony, listen to the audio here.
I’m Nicodemus Bamuhangaine. Working for Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU) and I’m in charge of extension and organic certification.
I live in Mbarara in Western Uganda.
In an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus in the communities, the office of the President came up with several regulations. These include: suspension of all public gatherings; closure of offices; closure of businesses. Then all the schools were closed, the universities suspended. All public transport was suspended.
All these are affecting day-to-day life. All these regulations affect human life. For example, suspension of the public means of transport, even the Boda-Bodas [motorcycle taxis] which were suspended. People can’t move from one place to another. Pregnant women who want to go to hospital for delivery. It is a struggle. You first go to the RDC [Resident District Commissioner], we have only one RDC per district who is a Presidential representative in the district. So, it is not easy for everyone to access the RDC. Many people are there. Those that fall sick, it is not easy to go to the hospital because there are no transport.
Some offices, for example agricultural factories were kept open – they are allowed to operate. But workers don’t stay at the factories, so they need to go home, but there is no transport. Because private cars were suspended, all sorts of movement were not allowed: except a few. The so-called ‘essential services’ like the electricity, the national water, and the government vehicles,plus the security vehicles, only. That means a civilian or a local person, it’s not easy for us to move
Personally, these regulations has greatly affected my work. Because I rarely go to the office, much of the time I work from home – because of the limitation of the transport. I can’t move, I’m not allowed to drive, I’m not allowed to move with the Boda Boda. So, it is not easy. Only a motorcycle is allowed to move with 1 person, it is in a restricted time. By midday you should be back home. So it is not easy to ride a motorcycle from where I reside to where I work from and ensure that by midday I’m back.
Secondly, there are other requirements that must be ensured at the workplace, which are standard operating procedures. We have reduced the number of workers, so we have few workers who can accomplish the work that should be done in a specific time. Because we have shipments sometimes, we want coffee to be sorted but it can’t be completed in a limited time because we have limited workers in an attempt to ensure the social distancing requirement. Then we have to buy the protective gears, the PPE [personal protective equipment], like the face masks, the sanitisers, all that kind of arrangement is not easy for the organisation and for us to implement.
On the issue of the effect of the pandemic on the financial stability, this is greatly being experienced. For example my family, my wife operates a small business, merchandise. But it was closed. It is now almost 2 months. She’s not working at all, so that means she’s earning nothing. So that means the family is completely dependent on me.
For the temporary solution. Yes. Go farming, do agriculture. If you can access land you are not restricted in your movement to the farm area. Go and do farming! So when you have food then partly you are safe for the rest of the days. You never know, at any time when the pandemic is not longer here then you will sell food. Because you are not doing business. But in agriculture you can do fine things. Particularly me, that’s what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m doing agriculture.