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Value addition offers best deal for farmers

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st September 2012 06:55 PM

The President has on several occasions urged farmers to add value to their products to realise better profits. As a country where 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, the advice could not be more timely.

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The President has on several occasions urged farmers to add value to their products to realise better profits. As a country where 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, the advice could not be more timely.

The President has on several occasions urged farmers to add value to their products to realise better profits. As a country where 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, the advice could not be more timely. Former micro-finance state minister Gen. Salim Saleh taked to Joshua Kato on how farmers can go about value addition for better returns
 
To qualify as a truly agricultural country, we should design and implement policies that will help us heed that call. In summary, a farmer needs good inputs, capital for his activities and linkages to the market. However, in most cases these elements are not effectively satisfied. 
 
It is true that there is no easy way to finance farming even when money is allocated for the sector through commercial banks. This is largely because of the sensitive nature of the sector. The financiers, for example, regard funding agricultural projects as highly risky due to possible bad weather and unpredictable harvests. This is why over sh90b earmarked by the Government to be accessed by farmers as loans remains unutilised. 
 
To ease this problem, there should be a dedicated financial institution that understands all the phases of agricultural production. This institution should be aware of the entire value chain and the time it takes to achieve it. They should know how crops are planted, harvested and marketed. 
 
Commercial banks are asking for too much because there are no structures for that kind of set-up. And yet, until farmers can get easy access to financial facilities, production will remain low, the quality will stay poor and the market needs will not be met. 
 
Without adequate financing, value addition, which is the peak of the value chain, will not be done, yet it is the top-most linkage as one progresses from a low-income to a high-income farmer. 

Successful interventions
Our interventions in Kapeeka, Nakaseke and some other areas are showing that many of these things can be done. We have mobilised some farmers in Kapeeka area to grow maize using the improved farming methods that include using tractors to plough the land, improved seeds, fertilisers and good harvesting practices. Because of this, the average harvest per acre is seven tonnes compared to the national average of 1.5 tonnes. 
 
In other words, we have organised the maize growers and empowered them to produce and sell their produce at good prices. These farmers are working together at every step of their activities, which gives them better bargaining power than before. Working together as evidenced here can be a key to enhancing productivity. A good example are the Danish cooperatives that have thrived for years because of this collective bargaining system. 
 
Another case is the value chain linkage between James Mulwana’s farm in Busunju and the cattle keepers around that area. Because Mulwana buys milk from them, production has gone up drastically because there is an assured market.     
As long as a farmer is assured of a good market, he will produce more to meet its demand. Therefore, the question of low supply will not arise as long as there is a steady market for the product. 
 
We have organised farmers in West-Nile to produce cassava in big numbers too. We are introducing there a cassava variety that can grow in just seven months, compared to ordinary cassava that takes in almost a year to mature. 
 
Emphasis on value addition
It would be useless to help farmers improve production levels and then not help them to market their produce. We have started a consortium under the name Akiba Empowering Development, whose major role is to help add value to products and then market them. 
 
At the moment, we are putting emphasis on products that cut across the main production chains. These include honey, peanut butter, silver fish (mukene) powder, oyster mushrooms, bean flour, upland rice, maize flour, amarantha products, coffee and moringa. All these products are produced in Uganda.
 
We are working with groups from across the country to get the raw materials, process them and then market them both locally and internationally. The groups we are working with include Kapeeka Maize Growers Association, Namunkekera Agro-processing, Nakaseke Grain Millers, Arua-Moyo and Nebbi Regional Bee-keepers Association, Nshere Goat Ghee, Nutreal Limited and Viva Herbal Limited. 
 
After value addition, we package and brand the products because well-branded products are easy to market. As a result, our products are already capturing the market both locally and internationally and the groups that are producing them are happy.
 
 

Value addition offers best deal for farmers

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