In a bid to deepen the adoption of value addition in agribusiness, a farmer based agricultural organization; National Agricultural Advisory Authority (NAADS) in Uganda is funding smallholder farmers with capital to invest in processing machineries and equipment. The new initiative has not only enabled farmers to triple profits from the processed agro based products but also opened up numerous opportunities for the many unemployed youths in rural areas to have a source of livelihood.
The program code named Commercializing Challenge Funds is currently benefitting over 1000 farmers in the country was introduced about five years ago with an aim to empower farmers and enable them benefit from their efforts through value addition. “Most farmers lose out on farming rewards through middle men due to the lack of mechanisms to process and preserve their produce. When there is glut in the market, prices of most commodities sharply decline and because most of the farm produce are perishable, most farmers are left with the option of selling off their produce at the prevailing low market prices.” explained Tumukunde Ezra a field personnel working with NAADS.
The initiative spread throughout the country and covers over 112 districts. It is subdivided down to the sub county levels. Beneficiaries of the project are identified through their continued contribution to the society in agribusiness. Tumukunde explained that they have field officers who then identify outstanding and established small scale farmers. Each sub county acquires two beneficiary farmers who should exhibit potential sustainability, capacity to continue production and endowed with knowledge. This is mainly, apart from establishing the mini value addition plants of their choice, their success in agribusiness enables them act as extension officers and model farmers whom the youth want to borrow a leaf from.
Being an initiative funded by government of Uganda and the World Bank, the progress of the initiative’s success is hinged on transparency and accountability. These two principles Tumukunde explained that they have reinvented the mode of operation which mainly determines the beneficiaries. “Initially the initiative was open to everyone provided that one had the required criteria.
However, after noticing that most of the civil servants were manipulating it for their own benefit, we tightened the criteria and part of the new regulation that we established include barring of civil servants and any one directly involved in government of the day.” By adhering to this regulation, Tumukunde noted that the project aims to benefit the core targets who are outstanding smallholder farmers with passion to grow higher in their trade of agribusiness.
The major machineries and equipment that smallholder farmers have benefitted from include Honey Extraction Plants, Milk Coolers and Processors, Maize mills among others. The choice of the investment in every sub county is determined by the area’s major crops. The two beneficiary farmers chosen from every sub county determines the plants and machinery of their choice that should be installed. “We do not dictate on the type of Machinery and investment for value addition that the farmers may need, but ensure that the farmers make a choice of their own as this only ensures maximization of returns from the investment,” noted Tumukunde.
Farmers are also finding solace in these established model farms with agro processors. Due to the training that most of the beneficiary farmers undergo, other farmers in the area visit their farms to learn from them on the best husbandry practices and therefore by playing like extension officers, the country’s farmer population is guarded from the paltry extension officers. “The model farmers are a good source of inspiration to agribusiness enthusiasts especially the youth.
This is because most people derive satisfaction and learn better when they have an opportunity to see and feel which these model farmers offer. This is not the case with most extension officers only able to offer theoretical knowledge to the farmers,” noted Tumukunde.
The established mini agro processing plants in the sub counties are entirely managed and owned by the beneficiary farmers. Smallholder farmers in the areas where the plants are established are cashing in on the move as they are able to process their produce and sell them at better prices. One of the beneficiaries for the initiative Rose Odek bee farmer from Kitgum who now processes honey noted that she has doubled her earnings from the initiative. “The initiative helped open up my business to export markets especially in Europe due to improved quality and sustained production. Apart from improving my fortunes, I have managed to earn global recognition in Bee keeping and am invited to offer advice in various international forums on the same.”
Odek’s honey processing plant has opened up new tidings in the area with the youth seeing the benefit of bee keeping and coming on board to also reap the benefits being enjoyed by Odek. “Over 700 smallholder bee farmers are now supplying me and I employ over 50 directly and indirectly and therefore have contributed to mitigation of the unemployment problem in the country,” noted Odek.