By Anne Mugisa
THE World Food Programme (WFP) has began buying food directly from small-holding farmers in Uganda to boost opportunities for poverty eradication.
The UN food agency said in a statement yesterday that it bought $53m worth of food locally last year for recipients in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern DR Congo.
The statement said the agency plans to increase the purchases to more than $100m annually in three years.
The country director, Stanlake Samkange, said WFP recently started buying food through the warehouse receipt system to increase direct assistance to small-scale farmers and support the Government poverty eradication efforts.
â€œBuying food directly from small-scale farmers, especially at high prices, helps further by improving the quality of life for the poorest people,â€ Samkange said in the statement.
He said WFP bought maize worth $34m and $10m worth of beans. It also bought $9m worth of maize meal and enriched blends for children.
The statement said WFP also spent $14m on local commercial transporters to ferry the foodstuffs to their destinations.
Samkange said under the new development initiative called â€˜purchase for progressâ€™, the WFP will also open more opportunities for the small-scale farmers, including buying other staple foods besides maize and beans. He indicated that foods like millet, sorghum, sesame and cassava products would be purchased.
Samkange said there has been severe food scarcity in the region resulting from conflicts and failed harvests, which led to the near doubling of beans and maize prices.
â€œDonors stepped up support in the most trying months, enabling WFP to purchase an annual total of 109,000 tonnes of food from local traders and small scale farmers,â€ Samkange said.
â€œBuying food locally and using local transporters boosts Ugandaâ€™s economy. Local purchase helps WFP reach people faster while avoiding costs of shipping food from abroad. The agency can, therefore, better utilise donor funds in an era of high prices.â€
According to WFP, the organisation reaches 90 million people, including 58 million hungry children in 80 of the Worldâ€™s poorest countries.