Gulu Rice Farmers’ Group Goes For Big Loans

GULU –The 48-member Latyeng Farmers’ group in Gulu District has big plans and an even bigger appetite for loans.

First, the group wants to morph into a cooperative largely to attract big loans to expand its business portfolio.

The 48 group members grow rice, produce foundation seeds, pack and label rice. Last season, the group planted 115 acres of rice and harvested 160 tonnes.

Vicky Ocan, the group secretary, told theCooperator that Latyeng farmers’ group has organized 152 farmers into seven different groups.

“We have seven farmers’ groups each with about 30 to 40 farmers, who get rice seeds from us on credit and repay with an extra bag of rice after four months, as we link them to buyers,” she said.

Ocan said the small groups have not yet registered with Latyeng Farmers’ group.

“Although these farmers are not registered with our group, we give them regular training in rice-growing business. And as we plan to shift to a cooperative setting, we shall consider them first during registration of members,” Ocan said.

Ben Ocan, the Chairperson of Latyeng Farmers’ group, said they are still keenly studying the farmers to pick out the serious ones before they talk them into forming a cooperative.

Ocan believes a cooperative will help them get enough loans to buy machinery and other equipment to produce more rice and grow bigger.

“Right now we can only borrow Shs 50 million from the Microfinance Support Center. But we want to be able to borrow as much as Shs 300m so that we buy a big tractor for opening many acres of land and a lorry to transport our produce,” Ocan said.


The group, however, faces a string of rice milling and bagging challenges.

The group was given a Shs 98 million rice huller by the National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS, in 2017 but it has not been installed due to lack of power in the area.

The machine can hull 300 bags of rice daily. Ocan said their prayers for electricity in the area have not been answered.

He said farmers travel 10 kilometers to hull their rice expensively.

Ocan said they need about Shs 40 million to install a three-phase transformer to run the machine, or a generator of about Shs 100m, which the group cannot afford.

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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.

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.

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.

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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Over 2,000 farmers in Apac set to benefit from a new rice growing project

Farmers in different cooperatives in Lango Sub Region are set to benefit from a recently introduced rice out growers scheme. At least 2,000 farmers in Apac district, have been supported to start growing rice more than 20,000 acres of land spread in Cawente, Maruzi, Nambyeso, and Ibuje.

The farmers will be further supported through a partnership between Clean Energy Partnership Africa (CEPA) Uganda, FOL Logistics, Tulima Solar Group and Equity Bank.

CEPA will provide the training and rice bulking, FOL Logistics will offer seeds and agro inputs and market, Tulima Solar will provide solar irrigation pumps, while Equity bank will provide loans to the rice growers.

Roselyn Atim, a member of Ibuje Sub-County Women’s SACCO and prospective beneficiary of the project, expressed her hope that it would help them boost their household incomes.

“We have been grappling with poverty in addition to challenges of bad weather, poor soils, and inadequate finances to grow rice on a large scale. We are happy these major issues are being addressed. Hopefully this will help us to increase our household incomes,” she said.

Atim was one of the hundreds of farmers being oriented on how best to grow rice and vegetables as a business during a meeting held at Apac Municipality recently.

Empowering Ugandan rice farmers

Speaking at the event, CEPA Chief Executive Officer, David Ebong, said rice growing is still a virgin area with good economic prospects for serious farmers.

“Rice consumption in Uganda stands at 225,000 metric tonnes annually, yet local production only amounts to 60,000 metric tonnes. To cover this gap, Uganda has been importing lots of rice from countries like Pakistan. We want to empower locals to take over this space,” he said.

Elizabeth Rumanyika, director for strategic planning at FOL Logistics told the farmers that the organization will avail them with fast yielding hybrid rice seeds, as well as agro based inputs such as fertilizers, farm machinery.

READ ALSO: Rice Farmers in East Africa to Benefit from $3million Grant

“There are about 35,000 rice farmers in Uganda today,” she said. “We need to train them, give them the best seeds and machinery, and tips on reducing post-harvest losses.”

Rumanyika further assured farmers of ready market for their produce.

“Farmers should not worry about finding market after harvesting the rice. We shall pay them in cash for all the rice they can supply. The issue of market is sorted,” she said.

Equity bank also pledged to support the farmers with credit.

James Odour the Equity Bank Manager Lira branch said the farmers will be given credit based on the records of farm businesses they have previously held, and priority would be given to those organized in SACCOs and other cooperatives.

Eventually, organisers hope to extend the training to other farmers in Apac, Kole, Dokolo, Amolatar, Erute, Alebtong and Oyam on the dynamics of rice growing.

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Masaka entrepreneurs wary of new Govt funding scheme

Potential beneficiaries of a new government funding scheme for specialised enterprise groups have expressed scepticism towards the initiative barely after its kickoff.

The new “Presidential Wealth, Job Creation Initiative”, commonly known as “Emyooga”, aims to identify specialized-enterprise groups from the parish level upwards that will be directly funded by government to boost their production capacity.

At its launch late last year, President Yoweri Museveni indicated that government had earmarked at least 100 billion shillings for the scheme.

Under the project, each enterprise group with a minimum of 30 members is required to form a SACCO which will then receive up to 30 million shillings in funding. The funds received will revolve amongst the members, at interest rates as low as 5 percent annually, to boost their respective income-generating ventures.

Beneficiaries sceptical

However, in a recent training on the project held in Masaka Municipality, leaders of various enterprise groups and SACCOs expressed scepticism about its viability, citing disappointing experiences with similar government initiatives in the past.

Norah Namukwaya, a member of Kimanya Women Briquettes Enterprise group, is afraid that systematic extortion by project implementers could render the funding worthless for the intended beneficiaries.

“We have experienced incidents where a group signs for Shs. 5 million, but actually receives only Shs. 3 million, yet it is supposed to pay back the full sum. Such inconsistencies have scared many of us from government programs for fear of losing our properties to unscrupulous individuals,” she said.

She demanded that the project be insulated from extortionist staff if it is to truly benefit entrepreneurs.

The tedious bureaucracy characteristic of such projects was also cited as a major challenge.

“Many of our members have lost trust in government financing projects after they were frustrated by the long bureaucratic tendencies involved,” said Reuben Kasumba, Treasurer of Nyendo-Zaire BodaBoda SACCO.

READ ALSO:Government to Invest Shs.100billion in the New ‘Emyooga’ Fund

Jude Mulindwa, another intending beneficiary, re-echoed this sentiment, decrying what he described as government’s chronic delays in releasing funds channelled through such wealth creation schemes.

He observed that some enterprise groups have resorted to privately-owned credit suppliers despite their exorbitant interest rates, because of their swiftness in disbursing needed funds.

“We cannot afford to pursue government funds for months- sometimes even up to a year. By the time the money is released, people have lost morale to carry out the intended projects,” he said.

‘Policy more important’

However, in a departure from the general clamour for expedited release of the project funds, Denis Bwanika a dealer in agricultural produce in Masaka central market, advocated for a greater focus on policy initiatives aimed at creating a favourable working environment for existing enterprises.

“People are already engaged in various commercial activities even without government’s direct financial support, but our frustrations are the lack of markets for our produce, inadequate value addition facilities, and costly inputs among others. Government should first sort out such limitations instead of issuing out cash handouts that will most likely fail to realize return on investment,” he argued.

In his submissions, Peter Muteesasira, one of the project trainers reassured the group leaders that government is committed to ensuring that the new project is a success. He indicated that they are also gathering public feedback which will be incorporated at higher decision making levels for the betterment of the project.

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Banana farmers count losses as strange disease rages on

Farmers in Western Uganda are counting their losses in the wake of a ‘strange’ banana disease that has ravaged plantations in the region for months now.

The disease, which has been attributed to banana rust thrips, leads to discolouration of the fruit peel from green to rusty brown or purplish in colour.

Although the disease does not seem to affect the fruit pulp which remains edible, customers are often unwilling to buy the discoloured bananas, leaving farmers stranded with unwanted produce.

“When people look at such a diseased banana, they assume that it is unsafe for human consumption,” says Samson Baguma, one of the affected farmers in Rwentobo-Rwahi town council.

Peace Kaconco, a banana farmer from Rubaare, lamented, “We are stuck with bunches of banana that have turned brown. No one will buy them, no matter their size.”

READ ALSO : Sebei Coop Farmers Frustrated by Erratic Weather

Francis Turyaheebwa, the Chairman LC 2 Kigaaga parish in Mwizi Sub County is worried that, unchecked, the disease could threaten households’ food security and ability to generate incomes.

“In this area we are highly dependent on production and sale of matooke (bananas). If this epidemic continues we are likely to lose both food and income,” he warned.

Some farmers even reported that their income from banana sales has been so affected by the outbreak that they have opted for soft loans to pay their children’s school fees for the recently started first school term.

Mounting frustration

Meanwhile, frustration is mounting among farmers in western Uganda over what many perceive as government’s inadequate response to the outbreak that is ravaging plantations in several districts and threatening the livelihoods of thousands.

For instance, Jotham Kyomukama a local politician in Mwizi sub-county blames the sluggish official response on incompetence.

“The fact that this disease is spreading so rapidly from one district to another shows how incompetent some government workers are. By now extension workers and agricultural officers should have intervened,” he said.

Residents in Rwampara confirmed to theCooperator that relevant authorities had not yet intervened on this issue despite being notified.

Preventive measures

However, district officials have advised farmers to destroy affected plants in order to control the spread of the disease. Albert Mugabe the Ntungamo District Production Officer told journalists that the extension workers have been tasked to move from farm to farm and help farmers properly dispose of the affected plants as more interventions are sought.

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