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).

https://thecooperator.news/ministry-of-agriculture-to-construct-post-harvest-handling-facilities-in-57-districts/

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.

https://thecooperator.news/budget-kwania-cooperatives-get-shs-89m/

“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.

https://thecooperator.news/gulu-rice-farmers-group-goes-for-big-loans/

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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Pay Dispute Rocks Atiak Out Growers Cooperative

AMURU –Rebel war abductees allied to Dwog Cen Paco Cooperative Society in the Northern district of Amuru are demanding about Shs 8.68 billion in wages for work done for Atiak sugarcane plantation in the last four years.

The 119 complainants, all former abductees of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, said they formed the cooperative in 2015 with 206 members. In 2016, they were contracted by Atiak Sugarcane Out growers Cooperative Society and National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS, to plant sugarcane and supply Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District.

https://thecooperator.news/atiak-sugar-project-plagued-by-labor-shortage/

Santo Omony said NAADs officials and Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Out Growers’ Cooperative, promised to pay each member of Dwog Cen Paco Cooperative Society Shs 5 million every year for an acre of sugarcane grown.

Omony said his colleagues; 77 women and 42 men, were given 534 acres to plant. The women were given four acres each and men three acres each. He said each woman is demanding Shs 80m and each man Shs 60m for work done in the last four years.

Their work, he said, involved weeding, planting sugarcane, weeding and cutting cane for crushing at the sugar factory.

After four years of working on the sugarcane plantation, the laborers say they have not got a single penny.

Omony said they decided to lay down their tools on January 4, 2021.

“We were supposed to start weeding and also cut some sugarcane from the plantation in January but we decided that we could not continue working without pay,” Omony said.

“I know this money has already accumulated and it can’t be paid at once. But our request is that they should be considerate and give us part payment,” he added.

Concy Aloyo, another member of the group, said they feel discriminated against, given that workers from other districts such as Gulu, Lamwo and Adjumani have been paid.

“We took up this initiative to be self-reliant after losing our land and even family members during the LRA war, and it pains me that our endeavor is not paying us,” Aloyo said.

Aloyo said the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Out growers’ Cooperative, Joyce Laker, promised in January when they refused to work that she would get back to them after a week, but she didn’t. Aloyo said if the five-year contract expires, it will become difficult for them to get paid.

Simon Ojara, another aggrieved member, said the NAADS coordinator for Northern Uganda, said in July last year “that our money was already given to the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Out growers’ but we wonder why they have not paid to date.”

Attempts to get a comment from Joyce Laker were futile. She neither picked nor returned our repeated calls.

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Emyooga: Family Probed For Forgery

HOIMA – Accusations of forgery have roared to the forefront in the creation of three Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (SACCOs) under the Presidential Initiative On Wealth And Job Creation, Emyooga.

Imposters, passing themselves-off as journalists and artists nearly received official certificates for three SACCOs that would have allowed them access Emyooga money.

But suspicious district officials held on to the certificates, pointing to forgery.

Samuel Kisembo Araali, the City Resident Commissioner of Hoima, confiscated three certificates during the official handover to Emyooga beneficiaries on Monday afternoon, April 26 at Hoima Booma Grounds in Hoima City.

The SACCOs whose certificates were withheld include; Hoima West Constituency Journalists Emyooga SACCO, Kigorobya Constituency Journalists Emyooga SACCO and Hoima West Performing Artists Emyooga SACCO.

https://thecooperator.news/anger-in-hoima-as-leaders-cling-on-to-emyooga-cash/

The seizure of the certificates followed pointed queries about the credentials of the people who turned up to pick the documents on behalf of the three SACCO groups.

Kisembo explained that the SACCOs were formed by none journalists and artists. He said the district will investigate how family members constituted the membership of one SACCO meant for journalists. He said that the culprits will be prosecuted.

He said the Emyooga money was initiated to create jobs and wealth for people. He said anyone who misappropriates the money will be arrested.

“They are three (SACCOs), which we are going to investigate thoroughly because they seem to be belonging to one particular group. One family mobilized themselves and they are all members of the journalists’ SACCO. One is the chairperson, another is the secretary and another is the treasurer. They are not even journalists,” Kisembo said, adding that he withheld the certificates to help in the investigation.

“I am glad that we have been able to detect this before giving them the money. Just imagine if they had already taken the Emyooga money, it would be unfortunate,” he said.

62 out of 72 SACCOs in Hoima district and Hoima City received their certificates. The SACCOs were formed from1,460 Emyooga associations based in the four constituencies of Hoima West Division, Hoima East Division, Kigorobya and Bugahya Counties.

Each constituency has 18 SACCOs and each constituency is supposed to get Shs 560 million out of Shs 2.24 billion allocated to the entire district.

Yosam Tumwebaze, the Resident District Commissioner for Hoima, urged beneficiaries to put the money to proper use.

“This money is for helping you to develop yourselves and move out of poverty, so when you get it, don’t use the money for alcohol, weddings, buying clothes, or marrying second wives,” Tumwebaze said.

Colonel Joram Kagyezi, the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in Bunyoro region, promised to monitor the beneficiaries to ensure that money is put to proper use.

“The Emyooga money is a seed; you need to use it wisely so that it moves you to another level. I promise that I will move and reach each group that will share this money. So if there is anybody who has been thinking of misusing the money like the way the youth did with the Youth Livelihood Fund, he or she should not take this money because things will not be good for them,” he warned.

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Peg Emyooga Seed Money To Property

MBARARA –Geoffrey Mutebi, the District Commercial Officer of Mbarara, has suggested that loan applications for Emyooga seed money should be pegged to personal property to guarantee successful recovery of the money.

Mutebi made the proposal recently during a talk show on Radio West which was sponsored by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development.

He said the Presidential Initiative On Job And Wealth Creation, Emyooga, is designed to prop up a saving culture among Ugandans and is different from programs like the Youth Livelihood Fund, National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), which never really changed people’s livelihoods.

“Research shows that 68% of Ugandans still work for the stomach but the Emyooga seed money is meant to focus on the economy where 18 SACCOS in each constituency will be given capital for development,” Mutebi said.

He said all 353 constituencies in Uganda will get a share of government’s Shs 260 billion start-up capital.

“As Mbarara district we have two constituencies; Kashari South and Kashari North, which got Shs 1.2billion that will be divided among the 36 SACCOs,” he said.

Mbarara City received Shs 1 billion in December 2020, which was divided equally between Mbarara North and Mbarara City South divisions while Rwampara district received Shs 1.4 billion for all the 36 emyooga SACCOs in its two constituencies.

“Each constituency formed 18 SACCOs and each SACCO has a start-up capital of Shs 30million,” Mutebi said.

Enock Kerere, the co-panelist and Chairperson of Kashari South Restaurant Owners Emyooga SACCO, said recovery of the Emyooga seed money may be difficult because members have not put up any collateral to guarantee the loans.

“It’s not a revolving fund, its start-up capital but paid at least after three months so how will one pay back when there is no property attached?” Kerere added.

Alex Kibirige, the Chairperson of Kamukuzi Preforming Artists Association, told theCooperator that Emyooga SACCO leaders may be arrested to force them to settle members’ debts.

“Chances of us getting imprisoned will be high because there is no clause for collateral. We are even likely to see the leadership refusing to issue loans because they do not trust members in their Emyooga groups, meaning the money will not be fully utilized,” Kibirige explained.

“How will I give you money when I don’t know your character much as we are dealing in similar skills? What if you default, who will be handcuffed, automatically it will be the chairperson,” he added

“Members still think the money is for sharing and celebrating the election victory (of NRM) since the program came during election time, so you can’t tell them to pay back,” he said.

Kibirige said the money disbursed is too little compared to the number of SACCOs.

“For instance our group requested for Shs 6 million but we were only given Shs 1 million yet we are 22 members. So how do you share one million amongst all those members?” Kibirige said.

https://thecooperator.news/beneficiaries-emyooga-cash-for-saccos-too-little/

Each cluster of skilled SACCOs in constituencies will be given Shs 30 million to cater for multiple groups.

“Remember we removed almost shs 500,000 for operational costs such as transport, printing the constitution, renting an office. I am even stuck with Shs 500,000 on our account because I don’t know how I can distribute it to all members” he said.

He advised the government to re-invest this money in already existing SACCOs to boost their portfolio instead of starting up new ones.

“Our mother SACCOs are already performing and they are established. They are not struggling like our Emyooga SACCOs, why don’t you empower them on condition that they reduce their interest rate such that more members can join? Because all these Emyooga SACCOs were not given a standard interest rate, some are already charging high interests compared to already existing SACCOs,” he said.

“Some are charging 5%, ours is charging 3% but EBO SACCO is charging 2%, so how will these Emyooga SACCOs compete? Actually those that will survive for a year will be few or none,” he said.

Mutebi said emyooga is here to stay.

“I want to explain to Ugandans that this program is meant to change our living conditions because Ugandans are known for working for a daily meal forgetting the next day, so we want to turn this program into a success,” Mutebi said.

“An average Ugandan will learn how to save, how to work and borrow money to improve his or her household income,” Mutebi explained.

Kerere said the disbursed Shs 260 billion has already created an economic impact in communities.

“This is a lot of money in saturation that will not leave the country the way it is. For instance landlords who had their rooms unoccupied in Bwizibwere have already started celebrating as there are over 18 Emyooga offices are already in existence,” he said.

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