“Many women in rural areas in Uganda cannot get a daily income as I do. Many often have a tendency of judging jobs, not knowing that even a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.”
Agnes Kadogo, a mother of two, came from Tanzania to Uganda in 2015 to look for a job.
Kadogo's search landed her in a rice garden. At first, it was so hard for Kadogo to come to terms with the hard labour and working in the swamp where rice is planted.
But, because that was the opportunity that had come her way, Kadogo decided to have a change of mindset.
"I stopped focusing on the mud. I wake up daily to this muddy garden to dig because I realised what I was getting myself out of the job," she said.
Kadogo, who now works at Kibimba in Bugiri district, said she earns sh6,000 daily, which she says is a dream come true.
"Many women in rural areas in Uganda cannot get a daily income as I do. Many often have a tendency of judging jobs, not knowing that even a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step," she says.
Kadogo has taken care of her two children. She says she is also gaining more experience so that when she goes back to her home country, she can employ other people.
She, however, asked the government to license rice seeds so that farmers can get quality and clean seeds.
"Tanzania grows rice because it is one of the staple foods there. Finding a job in a rice company was a godsend because I am now earning and saving. My long term goal is to go back to Tanzania and buy land, where I will still engage in rice farming because I now have the experience. I know the right seeds to plant, the inches to measure when I am making a nursery garden and, above all, I have got the market and economic knowledge on the rice," she said.
Mustafa Affan, a resident of Bugunga village in Bugiri district and a father of four, said he could not think about another job other than growing rice. He says the sh5,500 that he earns daily for the less than six hours of work in the garden, is better than many odd jobs that youth engage in.
FARMERS GET A BOOST
Jemilah Nabirye, another rice farmer in Butaleja district, said when the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) started the Resilient Efficient Agribusiness Chains in Uganda (REACH-Uganda) project in Butaleja, she did not know that she could get 20 bags of rice out of half an acre.
She said before REACHUganda project came, they practised subsistence farming and did not bother about markets.
The REACH-Uganda project has improved the level of market engagement by farmers, strengthened household resilience and increased the availability of agriculture support services, farmers and businesses in the rice value chains.
Nabirye said by employing a market systems approach to development, they have boosted their local markets and they now function more effectively, sustainably and beneficially for the farmers.
She, however, said finding clean seed for rice is next to impossible since government has not licensed the sale of rice seeds. "We are still planting seeds that we get from our harvests, which compromises the quality and quantity of our yields.
If the government could speed up the process of allowing big actors in the rice farming to produce clean seed, it will go a long way in improving the quality of the rice we produce and also give farmers more profit," she said.
Ronald Lamo, the IFDC regional co-ordinator, said they have trained nearly 40,000 rice farmers to improve their capacity on how to access rice markets and increase productivity.
REACH-Uganda encourages farmers to emphasise climate-smart agricultural practices, diversify their income sources and teaches them how to access to finance.
The project is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Partners include Cardno Emerging Markets, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries (MAAIF), the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), and the Royal Tropical Institute.
Lamo said farmers are facing challenges of climate change, torrential rains, seasonal roads, lack of information about rice markets as well as poor rice seeds. He said farmers also find difficulty in accessing loans in case they want to expand their enterprises.
Lamo said the government's policy to import rice from China, Pakistan and India was affecting the local farmers since the cost of production of the foreign businesses is way lower than for local farmers.
WORKING WITH OUT-GROWERS
Venugopal Pookat, the managing director of Kibimba Limited, said they are training out-growers to produce their own seed. Abubaker Kiirya, the chairperson of Geshaho farmers savings group in Napinga village, Busolwe subcounty in Butaleja district, said IFDC taught them a saving culture and connected them to financial institutions.
"We started borrowing sh5m, in 2017, but now our loan facility has grown to sh45m," he said. Kiirya said they were also given technical advice on how to utilise the money they get from banks.
Lamo said they have created linkages between farmers and traders, to eliminate middlemen. "We also organise them to groups and link them with the Microfinance Support Centre, where farmers are given money as a group," he said.
David Slane, the Chief of Party and country representative of IFDC, said they are working with the Integrated Seed Sector Development Project and coordinating with the Directorate of Seed Certification under the agriculture ministry, to ensure that the firms are formally licensed to produce rice seed that meets all the legal requirements under the prevailing seed regulations.