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Farmers stuck with produce as prices fall



A trader waits for customers at Awange-mola Road in Lira City on Monday. Falling commodity prices has left farmers in uncertainty. PHOTO | ISAAC OTWII

When farmers in north-eastern region started gathering a bumper harvest in July,  many were optimistic their fortunes would change.
Unfortunately, hundreds of farmers are stuck with thousands of tonnes of maize and beans due to the falling prices of their produce.
“I have been hoping to find a good market for my produce but some dealers offer Shs500 per kilogramme while others Shs510, which is very low,” Mr Nelson Okello Otia, a farmer in Chegere Sub-county in Apac Di strict, who is stuck with more than 300 tonnes of maize, says.
This is half of what they used to be offered for a kilogramme last year.
The farmers from Lira, Kwania, Apac, Abim and Soroti districts are now facing uncertainty on how to pay off the loans they acquired to buy seeds and fertilisers.
The farmers attribute the low food prices to the closure of local markets by government as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus.
They also claim that middlemen take advantage of their vulnerability to cheat them.
An attempt by Mr Mike Ngura Okello, a farmer in Abongomola Sub-county in Kwania to search for market for his soy beans in the past six weeks has been futile.

“Last year, I sold my soy beans at Shs1,500 per kilogramme but this year, they are buying between Shs900 and Shs1,000 yet the cost of production is very high. I’m stuck with 70 tonnes of produce due to lack of a good market,” Mr Ngura says.
The case is the same for Mr Francis Angany, a maize farmer from Apac Sub-county in Apac.
“In the first season, I planted maize on my 34-acre land and I realised a bumper harvest. I contacted some buyers from Lira but they are offering very low prices,” he says.
The recent government announcement of  reopening of education institutions for finalists leaves them wondering on how to raise fees for their children.
The institutions were closed in March after the country recorded its first case of Covid-19.
However,  with support from some NGOs in the region, the farmers could be sheltered from such effects.
For instance, Edukans and ICCO Cooperation NGOs together with Advance Afrika have trained 46 extension workers in Lira, Abim and Soroti districts to facilitate smallholder access to inclusive markets by focusing on changing the “rules of the game” that govern market systems.
Mr Thomas Okello, the Lira production and marketing officer, told Daily Monitor that the negotiation and lobby skills have improved among extension officers.  “The trained extension workers will use the skills to mobilise farmer groups and strengthen their lobbying and communication skills,” Mr Okello says.
He says the production and marketing department will also teach the skills to organised farmer groups formed by youth, women and persons with disabilities.
Statistics from the department indicate that the district has 15 cooperatives and more than 300 smaller groups while Abim has 1,500 farmers in four groups.
“We want to bring them (farmers) on board and strengthen their capacity so that they can demand for essential services and look for better markets for their produce,” Mr Okello says.
He says such interventions will help the region increase agricultural production and productivity.
“When we increase production and productivity, nutrition, food security and household income will also improve,” Mr Okello says.
Ms Lucy Angeo, an extension officer in Abim, says they have already started passing on the skills to the farmers.
“We are imparting these skills to these groups so that we reduce their vulnerability. We are also trying to strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers so that they can also access those skills,” she says.
Mr Moses Onika, another extension farmer from Lira, says such skills will prevent farmers from being exploited by middlemen.
“That is why we want to strengthen their capacity so that they can lobby, stand firm and sell their produce at fair prices,” Mr Onika says.

As extension workers pass on lobbying and bargaining skills to farmers to avoid exploitation, some parts of the region may be left out if the number of extension workers is not increased. In Lira, for instance, there are only 39 extension workers against the 54 required personnel. “We are trying to recruit more extension workers because the services contribute to more than 50 per cent of the success of a farmer,” Mr Thomas Okello, the Lira production officer, says. “We also have inadequate value addition facilities and post-harvest handling facilities. Those are the areas we must handle so that we improve agricultural production,” he adds. Mr Okello says they will recruit 10 extension workers this financial year and an additional five the following year.

Original Post: Daily Monitor

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Access to land, capital hampering youth’s involvement in agri-business



Stakeholder engagement with governments to support the youths should be a component of every programme

Young people in sub-Saharan Africa have keen interest in agriculture especially with the use of technology but are hampered with numerous challenges including limited access to land, skills set, sustainable financing and access to markets, a new report has revealed.

A new study carried out by Heifer International in 21 African countries titled ‘The Future of Africa’s Agriculture – An Assessment of the Role of Youth and Technology,’ reveals that 10 out of 11 countries, with the exception of Tanzania agreed that the most important support required is funding.

However, more training and mentorship were seen as more important than funding in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The survey also reveals that whereas more youths in Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe stressed the need for support in the area of access to markets, their counterparts in Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana prioritized the need for support in agri-technologies. Access to land was the major concern for the youth in Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The organisations working in the sector suggested that the best way to engage youths in agriculture is through technological innovation (39%), government support for young farmers (32%) and inclusion of youths in agriculture policy formulation (21%).

“Most youths in Africa also do not have access to land for agriculture.  59% of youths surveyed do not have access or own land. Land ownership amongst young people is lowest in Ghana, Zambia, Senegal and Rwanda,” the survey notes. “Youths in Malawi seem to have access to land, with only 14% having no access, the lowest among countries surveyed.”

Technology adoption

Overall, technology adoption in Africa too remains low, with Ghana, Senegal and Zambia having the lowest agri-tech adoption rate.  Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria have the highest technological adoption rates, according to the survey that featured 30,000 youths, stakeholders in innovations and small holder farmers.

William Matovu, a director at Heifer International-Uganda said the paradox of Africa’s economic development is that the continent’s urban and rural populations who produce most of the food is mostly comprised of smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming while living in extreme poverty.

“This scenario scares away the continent’s youth from careers in agriculture, yet ordinarily Africa’s youth should be replacing the aging farming population but this generational shift is not happening fast and well enough to secure Africa’s food security goals,” he said.

He reckoned that Africa’s youths disapproving attitude towards agriculture is mainly a result of lack of funding which is the biggest barrier towards their interest in the sector.

Africa’s agricultural sector accounts for nearly 30% of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and employs 54% of the work force, but it is still underdeveloped.

Mondo Kyateeka, the Commissioner for Youth and Child Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said unfortunately, young people are selling off the only available land to migrate to cities or go abroad for low-skills jobs

He said there are also feelings that older people are not willing to relinquish the land they can no longer use, to the younger persons to use it.

He, however, said the government is seeking ways of curbing the sale of agricultural land, saying the position is that agricultural land should remain for that purpose.

Key recommendations

As a result, the survey recommends a review of existing programmes that targets smallholder farmers and that youths must be conducted to determine if the current strategies support the African farmer with the use of technology.

“Innovation must be viewed within the context of the current realities,’ the survey notes. Beyond a smart App, the survey says providing linkages to local and regional markets will go a long way in improving the financial bottom-line of every farmer. The survey says digital literacy must also be a key consideration.

The survey says while smallholder farmers in rural areas do not have access to smart phones or Internet access, a basic phone is a good starting point in introducing the use of technology, through weekly SMS on prevailing market prices and best input bargains.

Furthermore, youths with a keen interest in agri-tech must work collaboratively with smallholder farmers to get a better understanding of their challenges and how to provide sustainable and affordable solutions.

“There is also need to capture data to provide evidence-based results on the immediate benefit and long-term impact of the use of technology by smallholder farmers,” the survey notes, adding that stakeholder engagement with the governments to provide access to land, tax waivers and fiscal policies that deliberately support youths in the sector should be a component of every programme.

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Butaleja farmers oppose govt ban on growing rice



Farmers in rice gardens in Hisega Village, Butaleja Town Council, Butaleja District last week.

Farmers in Butaleja District have opposed the government’s decision of banning the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands across the country, saying they should have been consulted.
The farmers say the decision will affect their livelihoods and push them further into poverty.
Last week, the government banned the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands.

In a resolution passed by Cabinetand communicated by the Minister of State for Water and Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, the government said the move will restore the environment that has been degraded by farming activities.
Ms Anywar said Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 8.5 per cent, while forest coverage has dropped from 24 per cent to 12.4 per cent.

Mr David Mulabi, a rice farmer and former contestant for Bunyole East MP,  last week said the decision is inhuman and one of the examples of the many discriminative and recklessly managed policy processes.
“The government has been giving out forests to foreigners to build industries. They have not said anything about urban encroachment on wetlands for home construction. Why target the poor farmers who have nowhere to go and have been farming in  these wetlands for over 50 years,”Mr Mulabi wondered.

He such a policy with a huge potential for social impact should have gone through long studies and consultations before its implemented.
Mr Mulabi said this could be another  government ploy to marginalise the rice farmers in the district, which is about 40 per cent covered by water bodies and wetlands.
“They j simply need to drop the whole thing and start afresh with proper policy consultation with a view of not evicting farmers but to get sustainable and practical solutions,” he said.

Mr Mulabi also accused government for giving a tax waiver to traders to import rice, something he said has led to price drop and has affected the farmers’ income.
“Instead of giving such money to our farmers to improve output, they supported foreign farmers at the expense of Ugandan farmers,” he said.
Ms Sarah Nagawa, another rice farmer, said the decision should be shelved, saying they earn their livelihoods from wetlands.

“These wetlands have paid for my children’s school fees including myself.They should think of better ways instead of taking decisions without consulting us,” he said.
Mr Abdu Walubya, a resident, said the district has  been depending on wetlands for farming.
“Almost 70 per cent of the homesteads of the population generate their income through use of these wetlands.Others live and sleep in wetlands. How will the government handle those who sleep and stay in wetlands, ”Mr Walubya said.
The district chairperson, Mr Micheal Higenyi Bory, said if the government takes over  wetlands without a clear plan, it will  lead to bloodshed.

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Raw deal for Sebei as Irish potato prices drop



Farmers in Sebei Sub-region are counting losses following a drastic drop in the prices of Irish potatoes

Farmers in Sebei Sub-region are counting losses following a drastic drop in the prices of Irish potatoes.
A bag of Irish at a farm gate costs about Shs30,000 from Shs70,000 and a kilogramme goes for Shs300 from Shs700.
Farmers attribute the drop in prices to the Covid-19 disruptions, poor road network and the surplus harvest of Irish in neighbouring Kenya, which has now ended in the Uganda market.

In an interview with Daily Monitor at the weekend, the farmers said they were expecting to make fortunes out of the bumper harvest.
They have asked the government to start up a processing plant so that they can add value to the irish.
Mr Isaac Sande, a farmer in Chemonge Village, Kapchesombe, East Division in Kapchorwa District, said they were giving away their produce to middlemen.

“We are just dumping our produce because we don’t have any other alternative. We are making losses and yet we had anticipated better prices,” he said.
Mr Sande said this was the worst price they had experienced in a decade.
“I had invested about Shs3 million as part of a loan from a savings group, expecting to get Shs7 million, but this is now impossible,” he said.
Mr Satya Malewa, the vice chairperson of Kwoti Kapenguria Farmers Group, attributed the low prices to an influx of Irish from Kenya.

“Buyers would easily move here for potatoes, but it is now hard because of hiked transport costs,” he said, adding: “The government should provide us with soft loans.”
Mr Joshua Cherotich,a farmer in Kamakunga, Kapchesombe Sub-county, Kapchorwa District, said he is stuck with about 2 tonnes of irish.
“I invested a lot of money, but the middlemen are giving us peanuts. But by all means, I will give it away because it will rot,” he said.
Mr Joseph Mangusho, a resident of Benet Sub-County in Kween District, said the government should improve the transport network.
“We also don’t have warehouses from where we can store our Irish,” he said.

Production capacity
Ms Susan Chemutai, the secretary for production of Kapchorwa District, said the district produces between 400 and 500 tonnes of Irish potatoes per season.
Ms Everlyne Kubarika, the chairperson of Kapchorwa District, said Sebei Sub-region produces a lot of Irish, which if processed can lift the farmers out of poverty.
Mr William Chemonges, the MP for Kween County,  who also seats in the Parliamentary Committee of Science, Technology and Innovation, said they made a presentation to the line minister (on value addition for Irish) who will brief them next month.

“Our farmers face a major challenge of prices. We need a processing plant and machines that can transform the raw Irish into other products in powder form. The Irish should also be preserved for two to three years,’’ he said.

Original Source: Daily

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