Authorities in the West Nile districts of Nebbi and Zombo are reviving the growing of tea in an attempt to get their people out of poverty. Leaders from the two districts as well as the Alur Kingdom have met the ministry of agriculture officials and agreed to kick start tea growing.
The government, through National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) has already allocated 50 million shillings for the production of tea plantlets.
Robert Okumu, the Nebbi district chairman, says they are targeting 10,000 outgrowers who would support a tea factory at Abanga in Zeu sub-county, Zombo district. The initiative target 11 sub-counties in the districts.
Okumu said Denmark’s development agency, (DANIDA) has promised to set up a tea factory as a priority in order for tea processing to start as soon as the tea trees are ready for production.
During the meeting in Entebbe on Friday, the leaders agreed that the agriculture ministry mobilizes, trains and sensitizes farmers on tea growing and processing. The district said it would include support for tea growing in their district development plans as well kick start the process.
The Alur Kingdom, assisted by consulting firm Divine Dimensions, would lobby for funding from international funding organizations like the African Development Bank and the European Union.
The Abanga tea estate was among the tea estates set up by the Obote I government in the early 1960s. Unlike other tea farms in western and central Uganda, Abanga was abandoned for unclear reasons. Other tea farms like Igara, Buwheju, Tooro and Mityana were fully developed and exist to date.
The Abanga tea farm, was supposed to have a factory, stores and other buildings, a working force of both skilled and unskilled workers, transport facilities as well as an army of out growers.
The planted tea crops overgrew and eventually withered due to lack of care. The Uganda Development Corporation later took over the farm but never utilized it as the sprawling land got taken over by encroachers.
In 1994, the European Union under the Small Tea Estates development Project, gave a grant of 75 million dollars for the development of the tea estates. All the tea estates, except Abanga, were again developed boosting Uganda’s tea production.
Odongo Japamora, the kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister, said they are focusing on tea because it has the potential of fighting poverty considering that is a perennial crop with a lifespan of 150 years.
Japamora said by the end of this year they expect at least 1,500 hectares of land under tea cultivation, though the target is 20,000 hectares over time.
If successful, the Abanga tea growing concern would be the biggest single tea estate in East Africa.
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