By Sory OuaneThe sound of amplified voices filled the air the other day in the lush hills of Kapchorwa. Lunch was served, a cultural troupe did a dance, and young school children recited a poem.
The minister of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives was there, as was the Acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and a Member of Parliament. Also present was the American ambassador, representatives from the Uganda Commodity Exchange (UCE) and Stanbic Bank, traders, farmers, NGOs and myself.
Kapchorwa’s first modern warehouse, a 2,000 metric tonne storage capacity facility constructed by WFP, was being commissioned. Therefore, a celebration was happening.
But the party was not the point: partnership was, as was the nurturing of smallholder potential to end hunger and food insecurity in Uganda.
Agenda to develop markets
With increased cash (as opposed to in-kind) contributions from donors in recent years, WFP has increased its local purchases in the world.
In 2010, for example, WFP purchased 3.2 million metric tonnes of food worth $1.25b from 96 countries. Uganda contributed 153,000 tonnes worth $43m.
Given the massive needs in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, WFP is capable of absorbing all quality maize grown in Uganda.
Indeed we are looking to increase our purchases to meet these needs without upsetting the local market - if we can find more high quality (Grade 1) grain.
But what we are trying to achieve is bigger than that; we are looking to use this purchasing power to help the Government develop agricultural markets. WFP is doing this by investing in market infrastructure; productivity enhancement and buying more from the warehouse receipt system.
WFP focuses on two constraints that smallholder farmers and medium-scale traders face in Uganda: the lack of modern stores and partly as a result of that poor quality grain; and high post-harvest losses. Our aim is to put systems in place so that smallholders can be integrated into the dynamics of the regional grain market so that they are able to sell to quality-oriented buyers without being limited to WFP.
However, my travel to Kapchorwa was hardly about witnessing a WFP achievement; it was a celebration of partnerships.
The Kapchorwa warehouse - as well as other WFP investments in the Busoga, Rwenzori, Acholi, Teso, Karamoja and other regions - are the direct result of a joint action agreement that WFP signed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in 2009 and the 2008 memorandum of understanding that we made with UCE.
Close partnership with the Government of Uganda allows us the privilege of supporting the National Development Plan.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and NGOs are also critical partners. WFP combines its demand for food with the supply-side expertise of the two parties.
Above all, WFP supports farmer groups that already have done something by themselves. The Kapchorwa Commercial Farmers’ Association was, therefore, an easy partner to choose given the investments they had made in group marketing, provision of inputs and infrastructure.
We are confident the group will use its expertise to put the warehouse to optimum use for the benefit of farmers. WFP believes the future of the warehouse receipts system lies with private sector.
WFP is 100% donor-funded.
The United States is the largest funder of both WFP’s humanitarian and agriculture and market support programmes in Uganda.
In line with its Feed the Future initiative, the US has so far contributed $8m for the Kapchorwa-type activities.
In 2012 and 2013, 75% of WFP’s agriculture and market support programmes are already funded, mostly by the US. And so, more parties are planned to celebrate warehouse upgrades in Tororo, Kasese and Soroti.
The writer is the WFP Country Director, Uganda