Agriculture constitutes a major source of income among the majority of Ugandans, employing more than 80% of the people across the country.
However, over the years, there has been a decline in production due to several challenges forcing many to abandon the sector to venture into other things.
The main challenge includes lack of markets for their produce, the unstable prices on the market, poor quality seeds and climate change, among others factors.
While opening the 25th annual Source of the Nile Agricultural Show in this year, President Yoweri Museveni also observed that with 69% of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture, it poses a great challenge to the advancement of the agricultural sector.
But to address the challenge, Government in partnership with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, have decided to rollout a new approach called the Public-Private Producer Partnership (4Ps) programme. This follows a three year 4Ps pilot project ending this year.
The $2.3million project was funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) implemented by SNV in five African Countries with each taking an equal share of the fund including Uganda.
In Uganda the project focused on the oilseed sector including; sunflower, sesame and soya bean in West Nile, Northern Uganda and Eastern Uganda.
During the review of the project at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala yesterday, the 4Ps SNV Project Manager, Nico Jansen said the project was intended to see how small holder farmers can partner with the private sector through strategic partnerships.
The entire project targeted 20,000 farmers in the five countries.
In Uganda 5,000 smallholder farmers have benefited from the three year project through various groups.
“We went through a rigorous process of identifying in each country which agribusinesses were active, those interested in working and buying from small holder farmers and match make them into a partnership,” he noted.
All partnerships were done on shared business plan by both players (farmers and private partners) linked up between SNV and other brokers, to ensure that each side is committed to something for sustainability.
“This was formalized in agreements on how to establish systems around quality control, transparency, pricing, volumes and how farmers get paid. This helps to build trust and confidence by holding both parties accountable,” he said.
Jansen noted that they also focused on building a business mind with the farmers to understand the quality demand of the private sector, to educate them how to calculate their profit and loses, and learn to work together for increased production.
He explained that working in groups helps farmers to avoid getting vulnerable in negotiation for prices with the private sector.
Jansen says partnerships are so important in the agriculture sector because both producers and the private sector depend on each other.
“If an enterprise does not have a good relationship with the producer, they cannot easily get access to raw materials which automatically puts them out of business. And if producers have no buyers, they can’t predict on what they need for production,” he said.
He asked government to take on the approach to boost the agriculture sector for economic development and improve people’s livelihoods.
“I believe many Ugandans will get attracted into joining agriculture if there is market and standard pricing. It is the only approach that will change people’s mindset from subsistence to commercial farming because of the leveled ground,” Jansen explained.
The project manager, in Agriculture Ministry, Connie Magomu Masaba said Government is to roll out the approach into other agriculture sectors.
She noted the approach makes agriculture profitable up to the last rural farmer in the rural areas.
“In this approach farmers/producers are regarded as partners but not as beneficiaries. This means they are involved in decision making and negotiations. A partnership to be effective, you must have a shared vision and dream and in most cases there is always market gap that always need to be addressed like a need for vegetable oil,” she added.
Magomu stressed that farmers are required to provide the relevant raw material to private sector for them to add value.
She stressed that if the country wants to promote commercial agriculture, then producers must be treated as partners because they have a big role to play as producers of the market.
“Issues like market access can easily be addressed through this approach because the buyers will always be available. Through this approach farmers can also get quality input with support from the private sector because they have an interest,” he noted.
Magomu cited the 4Ps approach in the oil palm sector in Kalangala, where farmers produce 4700 hectares of oil palm while the private sector BIDCO Uganda Limited produce 6,500 hectares.
“The farmers have partnered with BIDCO and the Government to ensure this partnership works. The amount of produce farmers contribute is significant and because of this we have two mills now which is an assured market for the farmers. They benefit by accessing the market, good pricing and accessing good palm seedlings from the private sector,” she noted.
She said under the 4Ps oilseeds, they have several farmer groups which have partnered with several private businesses where they always sell their produce.
“This means they are also assured of ready markets at all times. We thank IFAD and SNV for the support,” Magomu noted.
Because of these partnerships, several financial institutions have also come on board to lend to farmers in support of their various projects.
Under the 4Ps oil palm project, over 1,800 farmers have benefited.
Some of the oilseed groups involved in the project include: TAABU Integrated Cooperative Society, Wadelai Produec Marketing, Nyaruvur Farmers Federation, Terego Framers, Atizuyo Group, Baniba Group, Temi Teki Copeerative Society, Owal Cooperative Society, Lakure Peko Pe Group, Wilobo Wire Group, Ocam Ringo Groups and Lacac Pe Lony Group.