ESAFF-Uganda Scales Up Support to Smallholder Farmers in Value Addition

Gulu, UG:-The longstanding challenges of access to better markets, exploitation by middlemen, and financial credit faced by sections of small scale farmers across Uganda could soon come to an end. The Eastern and Southern Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF)-Uganda is currently embarking on closing the gaps through supporting farmers to add value to their crop for better sales.

Last week, St. Mauritz Agroecology Business Enterprise in Gulu City became the eighth beneficiary of ESAFF UGanda’s noble project, Agroecology Business Hub (ABH). The group of about 50 members with majority being women, received a brand new groundnut paste grinding mill. The machine worth UGX3M processes up to 30kg-50kg of roasted groundnuts and sesame per hour.

Mrs. Vicky Akello Lukwiya, the administrator of St. Mauritz Enterprise commended ESAFF Uganda for the support. She believes the machine will consume all the produce their members produce every farming season and will save farmers from exploitation by middlemen.

“With this machine, we are going to add value to our groundnuts and sell it as paste at better prices. Yes, we were cheated by middlemen who used to manipulate us and buy raw produce at a low price,” Mrs. Akello told Daily Express Reporter during the handover.

The ABH is a project under ESAFF Uganda initiated to empower small scale farmers to learn and practice agroecology farming as a business where they can earn from. The project offers a ready market for small farmers via an East African online Kilimo Mart market. The platform helps small scale farmers to have control on their product value chains right from the production to consume through mobile

Filled with optimism, Mrs. Akello, is confident that their members will be able to add value to their products to get better sales at both local and international markets. To her, ESAFF-Uganda offers the synergies to market their processed goods at Kilimo Mart, something she is hoping will boost their financial stability and reduce poverty in their households.

According to Ms. Josephine Hilda Nansubuga, the Business Sub-lead at ESAFF Uganda, their mission is to empower more small-scale farmers in the country to embrace agroecology farming as a business that can leverage their financial stability.

Using the three pillars comprising business capacity building, access to affordable financial credit and access to favorable markets, ABH has started handing over demand-driven support to 16 agroecological enterprises in 12 districts across Uganda. In northern Uganda, each eEnterprise was selected from Nebbi, Gulu, Omoro, Adjumani, Apac and Jombo district.

Access to financial credit by small scale farmers remains a big challenge in Uganda according to a recent report by Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Uganda. By the end of March 2023, the report showed that the agricultural sector accounts for 11 percent of the commercial bank credit to the private sector and yet the sector accounts for up to 35.9 percent of the labour force proportion in the country.

The report also argued that formal financial institutions in Uganda find it hard to advance credit to small scale farmers because majority of them operate in very remote and hard to reach areas which make it hard for some of the financial institutions based in the urban areas to access them and also that most of them still stuck on using informal rudimentary agronomical practices which produces low yields.

However, Mr. Andrew Adem, the Programs Manager at ESAFF Uganda, said Agroecology Business Hub comes in to close the gaps.  “Many smallholder farmers are doing a lot of farming at the grassroots yet they are not making the money like the other people [industrial farmers] are making, so our aim is to build their capacity, give them affordable credit finance and market to become economically sustainable,” he said.

In this program, Mr. Adem said they planned to support at least 500 enterprises in over 50 districts across Uganda where ESAFF-Uganda operates with the goal that the ripple effects will trickle down and motivate many small scale farmers to take agroecological farming as business. The project is being implemented with the fund from Agroecology Fund.

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