Farm Concern International has continued to realize her dream of commercializing agriculture in Africa with the launch of a new programme targeting smallholder farmers in Rubirizi and Bushenyi districts in Uganda. The Commercial Villages for Market Access Programme was launched on 22nd September 2017 at Crane Resort in Ishaka Uganda in an event graced by the Local Council Chairman of Rubirizi district, Mr. Agubanshongorera Sylvester. The meeting brought together stakeholders in the agricultural sector including smallholder farmers, private sector partners, government representatives, research organizations, universities and development organizations.
The Commercial Villages for Market Access Programme is being implemented by Farm Concern International, FCI with support from Stromme Foundation and close collaboration with Community Volunteer Initiative for Development (COVOID) with the aim of improving market and trade efficiency for smallholder farmers and wholesale buyers along the target value chains. This will be achieved through the Commercial Village Model and business partnership development with various markets targeting 1000 households in 5 Commercial Villages in Rubirizi and Bushenyi districts of Uganda over a 15 months period. The Commercial Village Model (CVM) is a smallholder commercialization, market and trade development approach designed by Farm Concern International through which smallholder farmers, agro-pastoralists, farmer organizations and agro-enterprises are systematically evolved and graduated into viable, competitive, profitable and sustainable value chain players. The model has been tested for 13 years in over 8 countries and with over 50 commodity value chains, 132 strategic partners and governments.
Speaking during the meeting, FCI Uganda Senior Progammes Manager, Mr. Tomson Okot-Chono highlighted that the programme aims to systematically build capacity of the smallholders turning them into profitable farmers, increase incomes and build capacity of farming families for socio-economic growth and break-off poverty cycles. Tomson added, “The programme will catalyze collective action for farmers in Rubirizi district creating sustainable partnership with output buyers, inputs companies, business development service providers and other development partners.”
Specific interventions focusing on women and youth empowerment will be undertaken targeting at least 40% women and 30% youth thus enhancing access to their respective sustainable incomes. Commercial Villages’ capacity will be developed through use of FCI training kits with the aim of enhancing adoption of technologies and business skills by rural farmers. Commercial Village Trade Facilitators (CVTFs) will be trained as local commercialization and trade facilitators.The Programme targets to increase farm gate value of the target commodities by 10% and facilitate annual sales worth USD 750 per household translating to USD 1.5 Million. Additionally, household and wholesaler buyers’ incomes are anticipated to increase by at least USD 250 and USD 300 respectively per year.
Stromme Foundation M&E Manager, Mr. Richard observed that the Commercial Villages Model is the best vehicle to pull smallholders from poverty since they are constrained by low level of commercialization, limited access to markets information and multiple layers of predatory market players which work in tandem to reduce gross margins for smallholder farmers.
Mr. Alex Amuda, FCI Markets and Trade Manager shared statistical evidence from the rapid market appraisal conducted in Rubirizi and Bushenyi districts for value chain prioritization that informed the programme and the programme implementation approach. The districts are characterized by traditional marketing systems that are predominantly informal with high levels of trade and business inefficiencies, poor information flow as well as several chain actors. The marketing systems also have low volumes of market demanded varieties as well as inefficient transport arrangements which often result in high cost of marketable commodities. In some villages, farm produce does not reach potential markets. The project aims at harnessing various domestic marketing systems through market driven production and market access of selected value chains. Social capital related to farming is limited among farmers with only 32.7% of farmers belonging to farmer groups dealing with farming activities. The findings indicated that women belong to farmer groups more compared to youth and male farmers. Households were accessing relatively small land sizes with the average land size accessed by a household being 2.7 acres although on average 0.79 acres per household is not put under production. Male farmers access more land than female and young farmers.
An analysis of crops grown revealed that Beans (34%), Bananas (26%), Coffee (14%), Tea (11%) and maize (7%) were grown by majority of the households in the targeted sub-counties. Beans, Bananas and maize were produced for both food and sale, while coffee and tea was mainly cultivated for commercial gain. The wide spectrum of crops produced is a result of the bimodal rainfall in the area that favours crop diversification. He however, noted that almost all farmers interviewed (98%) were using indigenous crop varieties. This presents an opportunity for the programme to promote improved varieties among targeted beneficiaries.
Challenges in production
Across all target sub-counties, pests and diseases pose the greatest challenge to crop production. The other major challenges are lack of water for irrigation, unpredictable weather and, the high cost of inputs. The project field extension staff will thus need to demonstrate technologies to farmer groups to control pests and reduce post-harvest losses. The emphasis will be need to be on low-cost, easily adopted practices. The integration of trees into the cropping system in Rubirizi and Bushenyi could also provide multiple benefits, including improved soil condition, and fodder, and other products. Furthermore, as both a risk mitigation strategy and to improve household nutrition and incomes, there will be need to promote diversification of crops.
|Source: Rubirizi District value chain analysis, FCI, 2017
Access to Agro inputs
It was interesting noting that there was less than 20% average use of fertiliser in Rubirizi and Bushenyi districts as per the analysis. The major sources of fertiliser are Bushenyi Agro-dealers in Bushenyi town centre, MTK Uganda Ltd located in Mbarara City (97km away from Rubirizi) and, Eram Uganda Ltd. This low level of fertiliser use is consistent with fertiliser usage in many parts of Uganda. In Uganda, of the estimated loss of 80 kg of nutrients per hectare per year, farmers are adding only between 1-1.5 kg, making Uganda the least in fertiliser use almost in the whole world. This rate of use is below the average of 8 kg per hectare in Sub-Saharan Africa (Uganda National Fertiliser Policy, 2016). As a result, soil fertility decline is one of the binding constraints to agricultural growth in Uganda. The study revealed that in as much as some agro-input dealers exist, they are not easily accessible and in many instances, farmers mentioned that agro-inputs were not affordable.
Speaking during the launch, Mr. Agubanshongorera Sylvester appreciated FCI for the impressive rapid market appraisal summaries and thanked Stromme Foundation for the new programme which will go a long way in supporting the Government’s agenda to alleviate poverty through agriculture. Moreover, he challenged the participants to stop complaining about inaction by the Government in addressing the issue of destruction of crops by animals from Queen Elizabeth park but come up with short term solutions like setting up bee hives because most of the destructive animals like the elephant don’t go near bees.
The participants appreciated the research findings and commented Farm Concern International for maintaining high levels of professionalism while conducting the study. The meeting called for immediate strategies to capacity build smallholders in the target area on the need for using certified seeds and fertiliser and ensure input suppliers are linked to the farmers for further capacity building and input supply.