By David Mugabe
Post-harvest wastage and low quality grain have conspired to deny farmers the opportunity to reap from the over $50m a year World Food Programme (WFP) cash pile for buying grain.
In 2011, WFP procured $18m worth of commodities, mainly grain, instead of the targeted $50m, Sory Ouane, the WFP country director, said during a recent briefing.
“We had to follow the East African grain council standard and they are very strict on quality,” Ouane said.
Ouane added that despite the challenges small farmers face, WFP wants to ensure that it is profitable for the farmers by building and using satellite warehouses and access roads so farmers are able to increase their income.
Were farmers to adhere to quality, they would benefit from the massive shortage of commodities worsened by the influx of refugees from the DR Congo and the grain shortfall in Kenya.
Ouane said the agency is short of $4.6m worth of grain to feed refugees up to the end of the year because current stock will run out by end of September. WFP, which is the logistics arm of the UN, has already spent $20m.
Through its new agriculture and market support, WFP is building warehouses in Kapchorwa, Gulu and Kasese.
The warehouses have been equipped with machines that dry the produce and farmers have been trained in proper handling. Also, 130km of access roads have been built.
In a 2009 joint action agreement (JAA) signed with several government agencies, the agencies were to encourage the warehouse receipt system under the Uganda Commodities Exchange (UCE).
Framers would then use the receipts as collateral to access financial services.
“A revised JAA has been drafted to incorporate the trade and industry ministry, which oversees the warehouse receipt system,” said
Lydia Wamala, the WFP country spokesperson. Farmers have, however, been slow in embracing the warehouse receipt system, with the 6,000 metric tonnes warehouse in Gulu yet to be fully utilised.
“It requires a lot of sensitisation, but we have managed to convince some of them,” said Ouane.
WFP has bought up to 400,000 metric tonnes of food from smallholders since 2008. Some of the food bought has gone to WFP operations in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania.
Small farmers have earned up to $200,000 (sh500m) from selling grain this year alone in northern Uganda.
Despite efforts in scaling up food production, Africa continues to suffer from huge food deficiencies. But Ouane is optimistic that the continent will one day be food sufficient if initiatives like the Maputo declaration that requires governments to dedicate 10% of their budgets to agriculture are implemented.