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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Prioritise cooperatives for power connection- Min. Ssempijja

The Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Hon. Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja has urged the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to prioritize the connection of cooperative-owned businesses to the power grid.

Bamulangaki made the appeal during his visit to Aratarach Cassava Cooperative Society in Nebbi district.

“The cooperative is doing commendable work by employing over 40% youths, but it is still producing at low capacity due to lack of access to electricity and water. This issue needs to be addressed at the national level,” he said.

The minister revealed that the Aratarach Cassava Cooperative Society is one of five cassava cooperative societies in the Nebbi district being implemented under the Agricultural Cluster Development Program (ACDP) championed by MAAIF.

Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), with funding from the World Bank, funded the construction of five mini cassava factories in Nebbi district. However, the factories have since faced ongoing power and water connection challenges due to their remote locations.

A case in point is Aratarach cassava cooperative society, a rural-based cooperative society operating in the remote sub-county of Kucwiny in Nebbi district, 8 kilometers from the nearest electricity power supply line.

According to Gerald Ongwech, the Chairperson, Aratarach Cassava Cooperative, the co-op was formed by former Functional Adult Literacy members (FAL) in the year 2001.

“It started with 31 fully registered group members but became a cooperative in 2013 with over 700 members, each of whom paid Shs 10,000 in membership fees.

Lost opportunities

Ongwech says the lack of access to the national grid is affecting the cooperative’s ability to add value to the cassava flour, which he says has a ready market.

“Much as we have a ready market for our cassava flour, the cooperative’s production capacity is limited due to the high cost of running it on generator power,” Ongwech said.

Already, the co-op has lost some potential clients due to its power challenges.

“We were approached by t Uganda Breweries Limited to supply them with 200 metric tonnes of cassava four per week, but had to shun the offer due to our current incapacity to meet the demand,” intimated Ongeyowun Innocent, the society’s Production Manager.

As a result, the co-op has, for now, limited itself to producing for the local market.

“We urge the government to connect the cooperative with electricity and water to run the cassava factory which is a source of employment to youths and widows,” Ongeyowun said.

One such member, Paska Unwangbanga, was all praises for the cooperative which, she says, has enabled her to meet her family’s daily needs, and pay her children’s school fees.

“The cooperative provides members with loans at affordable interest rates. It also employs some of the members and ensures our cassava is bought right from the plantation site,” she said.

Joyce Piwa, the focal person for ACDP Nebbi district, confirmed that most cooperatives in the district are hamstrung in their operations by lack of water and electricity.

“Government should consider promoting cooperative activities as one of the tools to eradicate poverty at the community level for socio-economic transformation,” she said.

Connection imminent

During his visit to the cooperative’s factory, Minister Bamulangaki promised that government would soon resolve the area’s power issues as the Karuma dam nears completion.

“The power scarcity in West Nile is temporary; very soon the region will be connected with power from Karuma dam, with a substation being constructed at Olwiyo in Nwoya district,” Bamulangaki said.

He urged the cooperative management to negotiate with the ministry of trade for marketability such that the cooperative products be known to the global market.

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Masindi women tipped on growing their SACCOs, SMEs

Women belonging to different women’s SACCOs and savings groups, as well as owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Masindi district have been trained on how to manage and grow then from one level to the next.

The one-day training was conducted by the All-in-One Women’s Association (ALOWA) at Kolping hotel in Masindi on Wednesday.

Godfrey Bahemuka, the Masindi district Community Development Officer (CDO), sensitized participants on the processes and procedures of forming SACCOs and savings groups, and on the roles of the elected leaders.

“As members, you should always know the vision, mission, and objectives of your groups and SACCOs. Most of you don’t know these things and yet they are key. That’s why many of your groups and SACCOs don’t last,” explained Bahemuka.

He also underscored the need for proper record keeping in all organizations involved in savings and credit, noting that this documentation is necessary for accountability.

The members were also taken through group conflict management and basic financial literacy.

Bahemuka also advised the leaders of different women groups to make use of the available government programs like the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP) and Emyooga to get capital for their businesses.

Unite purposefully

Lilian Namirimu, the Executive Director, ALOWA urged women to unite with a purpose, and not only plan to come together when the government is planning to give out funds.

” As women, we need to work together and not in isolation. We shall achieve our targets if we are united,” Namirimu said, adding that unity would give them greater bargaining power in lobbying for their interests.

Namirimu said the association decided to extend this training to women because of the important role they play in promoting social and economic development.

Florence Achiro, the Chairperson, Women of Worth Catering Group, commended ALOWA for organizing the training.

“The knowledge we have acquired will enable us to improve on the management of our groups and businesses.”

Stella Alinaitwe from Masindi Central Market Vendors SACCO appealed for further training opportunities from other organizations.

“We really have inadequate knowledge on how to run these SACCOs. We need more training like this to equip us with the necessary information to grow our SACCOs and businesses.”

The meeting was attended by market vendors, produce dealers, and women leaders, among others.

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Bwijanga Coffee Cooperative targets coffee processing machine

Bwijanga Coffee Cooperative Society Limited in Bwijanga Sub-county, Masindi district is in the process of acquiring a coffee processing machine that will enable them to add value to their coffee.

According to Benedicto Ssensaga the Chairperson, Bwijanga Coffee Cooperative Society Limited, the processing machine will be established in Kikingura village Kitamba parish Bwijanga sub-county.

“We are now going to benefit from our coffee because we going to add value to it instead of selling raw materials. We have enough coffee to feed the machine, and I am optimistic that our economic status is to change due to this investment,” he explained.

Ssensaga says that the members of the cooperative have a combined acreage of over 500 acres of coffee, a figure he predicts will rise even higher since they are still admitting more members.

MAAIF support

Ssensaga also revealed to theCooperator that the cooperative has secured the support of the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) towards its goal of acquiring the coffee processor.

“Last year, we were told that we would be supported under the Agriculture Cluster Development Program (ACDP). Under the matching grant, we were asked to contribute 33% of the price of the machine, which amounts to 75 million shillings, and the government promised to put up the remaining 230 million shillings,” said Ssensaga.

He explained that the coop’s contribution will be made in form of materials and land.

“We already have the land and have bought the necessary building materials,” he said, adding that they are now waiting for the relevant district officials to come and assess the situation on the ground.

“In the meantime, internally we are mobilizing our members to ensure that they solicit for the required money to bring the machine to our cooperative.”

Simon Wairima, the Cooperative Secretary, revealed that some of the necessities have been acquired, including a Tax Identification Number, Pro forma invoices from the machine supplier, and developing the farmers’ register.

Last Thursday, the concerned district officials and the cooperative’s leadership had a planning meeting on how to proceed.

About Bwijanga Coffee Coop

Founded in 2019, Bwijanga Coffee Cooperative Society Limited already has over 1000 active members drawn from the entire Bwijanga sub-county.

The same cooperative introduced a saving scheme last year that requires every member to buy a minimum of two shares, each at Shs 30,000.

Bwijanga Coffee Cooperative Society Limited is one of four active coffee cooperatives in Masindi district, the others being Karujubu Coffee Cooperative Society Limited, Pakanyi Coffee Cooperative Society Limited, and Alimugonza Coffee Cooperative Society Limited.

Coffee growing has picked up significantly throughout Masindi district following the distribution of coffee seedlings to farmers by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) under Operation Wealth Creation (OWC).

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