The government of Uganda introduced a Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA), designed as a strategic framework for eradicating poverty through the implementation of multi-sectorial interventions aimed at easing the multifaceted constraints faced by farmers. PMA is aimed at increasing income and quality life, improving household food security, providing gainful employment, and sustainable use of management of resources.
Adding to above, the government of Uganda is implementing prosperity for All development framework that embraces rural enterprise and promotes industry by building on the plan for zonal Agricultural production, Agro-processing and Marketing. Through zoning, and enterprise selection criteria, PMA intends to provide information and guidance for agricultural investment to local government and individual farmers at the agricultural production zone level.
Despite Government attempts to improve Agriculture production and productivity, there are concerns about declining production among Adjumani farmers, persistent poverty, health and environmental problems, and the use of child labor on the farms, the people’s perception on government and/or NGO initiatives, not forgetting communal ownership of land which contributes to land fragmentation where same piece of land is being used time and again without adding ingredients to increase production and productivity to support the overwhelming population of refugees and host community of District.
Buena Suerte Investments Implementation Strategy
Buena Suerte Investments is working with a group of small scale farmers of over 500 members. We aimed at making profits by improving people’s lives to prosper through Agriculture and agribusiness. Our work is to make farmers to transform subsistence farming (growing for home consumption) to commercial farming. The project is aimed at making profits by changing people’s lives, improving their economic growth through poverty reduction, it has ensured food security and ultimately diversified Uganda’s export base.
The project encourages small scale farmers to work hard and we look for market linkages to their produce. There is market for everything that is produced in Uganda. We have registered networks of farmers who do both crop and animal husbandry at household subsistence scale that we are supporting to transit to commercial farming. We support our farmers to produce and we find market for their produce in and outside Uganda. Internally, within Adjumani district, there is high market for Agriculture produce that can be consumed locally, such as Maize, Beans, Rice among others as the district host over 50% of the refugees from South Sudan.
We have formerly registered our farmers to create linkage. The registered members have the advantages of benefiting from the company in; reduced ploughing cost per acre against market price, training on a range of fields such as; farming budget preparation, application of farm inputs, training on pest and disease control and management, amongst others.
The network ensures that we have produce to be sold all the time throughout the year. Our cycle begins with inspiring the farmers with success stories, then we train them (capacity building), technical support, advice on the best seeds, we do follow up and lastly find buyers for their produce. Our operations are in 6 sub counties and we planned to scale up to the rest of the sub counties in the District. Currently, we have a network of over 500 small scale farmers that we are supporting.
We work with the farmers in advising them on what to plant, when, where, on which soil, we do field visits and then find market for their produce. We mainly grow maize, beans, Rice, Cassava, and some vegetables in a small scale. We produce large quantities of these for domestic consumption and planned to export to regional market. We have demonstration farms for training our farmers.
Achievement on Agriculture
Despite of the challenges faced by Buena Suerte investments in supporting scale up of Agriculture and agri-business in Adjumani district, there have been significant achievement as indicated on the chart below;
Additionally, the company was able to facilitate the first ever conference on Agriculture in Adjumani District attended by over 150 delegates. The conference brought together, farmers’ representatives within and outside the district, academia, policy makers, local leaders, cultural leaders, youths and women representatives. The conference discussed the challenges and the role of government and local leaderships in supporting the scale up of agriculture and agri-business to local population.
Buena Suerte Investments Basic household farmer’s assessments
Prior to the start of the implementation, Buena Suerte Investments conducted a basic assessment with the agriculture practicing households.
This assessment provided rich insights into conditions faced by farmers across the district of Adjumani. Several key results stand out; over 90% of the productive population relies on agriculture as an economic activity, farming practices are simple and the use of modern farm inputs are negligible, low productivity results to extremely low incomes for farming households, farmers are not organized in ways that allow them to confront challenges being faced, there is finding that market exist for agriculture produce but the challenge of low production and productivity that is difficult to arrange for large markets.
Challenges facing Agriculture and Agribusiness in Adjumani District
There are several challenges Buena Suerte Investments faces in supporting scale up transition of small scale farmers to commercial farming. Among these challenges the following stand out;
- Limited farm tools and inputs. For example, Buena Suerte Investments has only one tractor which was not practically possible to support opening farm land on time for over 500 farmers. Farmers have no idea of getting farm inputs, they have no access to high breed seeds, no or limited knowledge on farm input applications, such as ferlisers, insecticides.
- There was a devastating outbreak of fall army worms to cereal crops, such as Maize, in this year. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, BSI was not able to respond promptly towards helping farmers fight the outbreak. BSI will follow up with the relevant Offices to mobilise emergency funds for future outbreaks. The company will also lead the formation of a team that would respond in the event of future outbreaks.
- Farmers require financial support. They asked whether BSI could provide support linkages with financial institutions to provide soft loans with better terms of re-payment (e.g. low interest rates).
- The market for agriculture produce and production is still a challenge. Small scale farmers produce in small quantities that does not attract large scale buyers. Buena Suerte Investments is working to link farmers to larger markets for maize, beans and rice produces. There are however, non-prioritised farm produces that require market linkages. BSI will look into available markets for such produce and advise farmers where necessary.
- Inadequate knowledge on post-harvest management. No or limited storage facilities, luck of financial management skills.
Partnership and Collaboration
Addressing the challenges facing Agriculture and agribusiness requires robust approach and strategy with involvement all key stake holders. Buena Suerte Investments is willing to collaborate with any partners such as Government, local government, non-governmental organizations, private companies and individuals who are willing to engage in Agriculture and agri-business.
Conclusion in supporting farmers to transit from subsistence to commercial farming
In the implementation of Agriculture and Agri-business in Adjumani district, number of issues were noted which focuses on the support that are required to develop innovative, impactful, relevant, rigorous, accessible, efficient, and quality inputs. These included but not limited to;
1) Better identification of local and regional challenges in agriculture by organisations and Government at all levels will help determine the need for support
2) Shift from a focus on agricultural subsistence farming to a focus on commercial farming, which encompasses the production of large scale products that will attract large scale buyers
3) Examine cost benefit analysis and train farmers to transit from subsistence to commercial farming
4) Government Ministries and District Offices should consider supporting organisations like Buena Suerte Investments that work directly with farmers. Such support should include making the supporting organisation to be middlemen between Government projects and direct beneficiaries (farmers) for easy monitoring and management while Government takes oversight responsibilities
5) Provide training curricula that looks at pre and post-harvest management and agriculture supply/Value chain management practices, application of farm inputs
6) Support farmers on the outbreak of diseases, supply of recommended seeds, and other resources such as farming equipment (e.g. tractors).
7) Engage in partnership that transfer knowledge to farmers that would enable transit from subsistence to commercial farming.