Amuru farmers receive rice processing machine worth Shs 80m

AMURU – Amuru farmers under their umbrella organization Pabo Rice Farmers’ Cooperative have received a rice processing machine worth Shs 80m.

The rice processing machine will be stationed in Pabbo town council, Amuru district.

Initially, the farmers used to struggle to process their rice to international standards. Now, they will be able to export their rice to the international market.

The machine has been procured through the Agriculture Cluster Development Project under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Industry in partnership with the farmers.

Members under their cooperative contributed 33% and the Ministry 67%, according to the district Commercial Officer Samuel Kidega.

Kidega says, the machine will increase production among the members and they will be able to tap into the Southern Sudan market.

The machine has the capacity to process 1,000 tons of rice per hour.

“The machine has been stationed in Pabbo, since they are the biggest producers of rice in the district. As we talk now, the warehouse is already complete and any time the machine will be installed,” said Kidega

Grace Akello Abola, Chairperson of the cooperative said, previously they would take a lot of time to process the rice since they grow a lot and now that the new machine is in place, production will even double.

According to Abola, these developments comes with other opportunities like employment for the youth who will be contracted to run the facility.

Evelyne Akumu, a member of the cooperative said, previously they would incur extra cost in transporting their rice to Gulu City.

“Transport costs have been cut, the funds that we have been using will help us for other activities,” she said

The cooperative has more than 500 members and it was started in 1987, but due to the insurgency between the government and Lord Resistance army (LRA), most activities were put on hold.

The cooperative revived its activities in 2014.

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Amuru Builds Shs1.5bn Produce Stores

AMURU –To spur on-farm productivity and shore up the market for big volumes of agricultural commodities, Amuru District local government is constructing 11 produce stores worth about Shs1.5 billion for cooperative groups and farmer associations.

The 3,000 metric tons each capacity stores are being built in Atiak Sub County, one in Pabbo Sub County, four in the northern Amuru town council and three in Lamogi Sub County.

The beneficiary cooperatives include; Pupwonya Cooperative Society, Pabbo Rice Cooperative Society, Amuru Progressive Farmers’ Cooperative Society, Ojigi Cooperative Society in Amuru Sub County and Patopa Cooperative Society in Amuru district.

Samuel Kidega, the Amuru District commercial officer, said construction of the produce stores is funded under the Agriculture Cluster Development Project-ACDP program.

ACDP, which started in January 2012, is a partnership project between the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the World Bank –financed by the bank’s International Development Assistance (IDA).

The project, implemented in 57 districts across Uganda, aims to raise on-farm productivity, production, and marketable volumes of selected agricultural commodities (maize, beans, rice, cassava and coffee).

Kidega said farmers have been hiring small lockup shops in the trading center to store their produce.

Amuru District Production Officer, Okwonga Batulumayo said a lack of storage facilities in most sub counties in the district forced farmers to store their produce in their houses.

“Quality is usually compromised when farmers store their agricultural produce in the house,” Okwonga said.

The production officer said Shs 2.5 billion has been given to the district to construct roads linking storage facilities to the market.

“These roads will ensure that farmers do not waste too much money on transport to access the market for their produce,” He said.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Orsbon Oceng, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner, urged farmers to own stores.

“The government is doing everything possible to help farmers move out of poverty by investing in projects that directly help them but they have to embrace the projects,” he said.

Amuru District has 15 produce stores already, which were constructed by non-governmental organizations but only one in Pabbo Kal in Pabbo Sub-County is fully operational.

Interviewed, Bartholomew Okwonga, the Amuru District Production Officer, said some farmers abandoned the produce stores because of poor handling of their produce in storage.

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Abapiri Farmers Lobby For Shs 400m Warehouse

KWANIA –Frustrated by how little farm produce they can stash away, a 450-member group of farmers allied with Abapiri Oil Seed Cooperative Society, in Abapiri Village, in Chawente Sub County, Kwania District is lobbying the government, well-wishers and donors for Shs 400 million to construct a warehouse.

The cooperative, which deals in soya beans, maize, simsim and other cereal crops plans to construct a store to bulk members’ farm produce for sale.

Stephen Otim, the chairman of the cooperative, said they have already procured land to build the warehouse but are still lobbying the government, well-wishers and donors for funds.

“We are grappling with the challenge of proper storage, however, the cooperative has a plan of constructing a big store estimated to cost Shs 400 million, we already have land but we are seeking support from the government,” he said.

He said the government should rehabilitate roads and provide irrigation systems to boost farmers’ production. Thomas Olal, a member of Abapiri Oil Seed Cooperative, is optimistic that construction of the warehouse will allow them to bulk their produce and sell at affordable prices to help members climb out of poverty.

Hellen Ayao urged the government to invest in different cooperatives in the country. She rallied people to join groups in order to benefit from the government programs.

“We lack a warehouse, I call upon the government to support us, we want to bulk our produce and sell at affordable prices as you know bulking is power. This will help us get a lot of money to eradicate poverty at the grassroots. I want to encourage people to join the group so that we benefit from the government program,” she said.

Patrick Bura, the Kwania District Commercial Officer, said in a telephone interview that; “Cooperatives have a potentially strong role in reducing poverty and social exclusion, and promoting national development. The government is yet to plan on how to support such cooperatives, but as of now they can write a proposal to the Africa Development Bank for financial support, yes as of now.”

Abapiri Oil Seed Cooperative Society started in 2017 as a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) – largely to promote commercial agriculture and strengthen group marketing for increased household income. The Cooperative currently has a total of 451 members with 150 loan portfolios. However, it is operating without a proper storage facility.

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Gulu Farmers Avoid Large Scale Farming

GULU –Deeply frustrated by the high cost of opening and ploughing virgin land, farmers in Acholi sub-region have steered clear of large scale farming.

Beatrice Kipwola, a member of Paicho Central Kal Cooperative Society in Paicho Sub County, Gulu district, told theCooperator that she has restricted herself to cultivating no more than five acres of land.

“Each season I plant only five acres of both soya beans and beans. This year, I had planned to add another five acres, but this means I have to inject Shs 900,000 in just opening and ploughing the virgin land, minus other inputs, planting and weeding expenses. This is a risk I don’t want to take, considering that high yields are not a guarantee,” Kipwola said.

A tractor costs between Shs 80,000 to Shs 90,000 to dig up an acre of unused land. An ox-plough costs Shs 40,000.

Since more than 90 percent of people in Acholi sub region are engaged in either subsistence or commercial agriculture –free hands for hire to open new land are hard to come-by because everyone is busy.

Each person or family does their own land opening.

Kipwola, who gets a net profit of about Shs 300,000 to Shs 400,000 every season, said she is afraid of expanding her gardens because hiring individuals to open land costs Shs 120,000 per acre. She said the high cost diminishes her profit margins.

Kipwola hires an ox-plough to open land.

Joska Lacaa, another member of Paicho Central Kal Cooperative Society, said she cannot cultivate beyond three acres.

Lacaa said she has restricted herself to growing only an acre of ground nuts and an acre of maize to avoid the prohibitive cost of opening new land.

She said uprooting a single tree stump from virgin land costs between Shs 10,000 to Shs 20,000.

“If there are 20 tree stumps on an acre, it means I have to part with a minimum of Shs 200,000 before employing the use of a tractor, twice. So, where will my profit come from?” Lacaa said.

Simon Opiro, the chairperson of Paicho Central Kal Cooperative Society, said land opening is a daunting task for the more active 47 female members of the cooperative. The cooperative has 219 members, but only 81 are active. Unlike men who can do some of the tasks, women have to hire most of the services, he said.

Opiro said that besides the prohibitive cost of hiring tractors for land opening, the whole sub county has only three tractors, which are always occupied. He said it takes about a month or more to get a tractor on-the-ground after booking.

Santa Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Plantation Out growers’ Cooperative Society Limited, said land opening is the biggest challenge to the cooperative.

“Operation Wealth Creation gives only seeds; how do you give seeds to someone who is unable to clear a large farm for commercial agriculture?” Laker said.

“We need support from government. It has only supported us to open land for sugarcane, not other crops, yet commercializing agriculture needs a lot of inputs,” Laker said.

A 2016 study of Land, Food, Security and Agriculture in Uganda by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Makerere University Business School found that cooperatives in Uganda now, unlike in the heyday of the cooperative movement, are not getting enough government support in terms of inputs.

The study suggests that agriculture credit be extended to cooperatives in form of tractor hire services and supply of inputs such as pesticides and other equipment, such that recovery is done at the time of sale of produce.

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