Farmers engaged in growing oil seed crops and cereals such as maize stand to benefit from a five year project that was recently launched by the Catholic Relief Services with $8m (Shs20b) funding from US Agency for International Development (Usaid).
The farmer-to-farmer project to be implemented will be conducted in four countries in Eastern Africa, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
According to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) country director in Uganda, Elizabeth R. Pfifer, the religious founded organisation has been implementing farmer-related projects in the different parts of the country ranging from the west and east to the south and north since the 1980s though the previous focus was mainly on livestock farmers.
The programme, which will run from 2014 to 2019 will focus on sensitising farmers who are growing oil seeds such as sunflower, groundnuts, and soya beans and grains like maize mainly focusing on proper agronomy practices for improved yields as well as modern processing techniques.
“The project is funded by Usaid but being implemented by Catholic Relief Services in Uganda and other countries. It is basically using a people-to-people approach and it will work with countries implementing the Usaid Feed the Future programmes mainly to address issues of food security,” she explained.
The focus on maize in particular is mainly to help farmers improve on use of agro-inputs for better yields as well as improve the business by adding value for the finished products from maize.
On the other hand, the focus on oil seeds will focus on sensitisation of farmers to improve on the products of these crops. This is to move them from subsistence to commercialisation.
In this, the focus will be mainly on women- and youth-led farmers’ associations which have been mostly successful in running their organisations albeit with some challenges.
George Ntibarikure, the country project director, said the previous farmer-to-framer project that started in the 1980s centred on crops like maize, groundnuts, simsim and sunflower. This was carried out in the eastern and northern parts of the country.
The last phase, which was implemented from 2008 to 2013 involved farmers growing crops such as maize, sorghum, millet, barley and wheat especially in Kapchorwa District and some parts of western Uganda, where millet is grown most.
“In this particular project [2014-2019], we shall be sensitising farmers on proper agronomy practices, use of modern machines especially for processing maize flour, use of improved inputs, value addition like making composite maize flour from mixed maize flour and soya beans as well as marketing farmers’ produce by bulking the produce,” Ntibarikure said.
The CRS team has already identified some farmer associations which will help them to implement the project.
These include, among others, North Farm Centre Ltd and Alito farmer group in the Lango sub region, Ascanda in Iganga, Swepco farmer group in Masaka and the cooperative unions in Kasese and Mbarara.
Already, some farmers in Kapchorwa through their association, Kapchorwa Commercial Farmers Association (Kacofa) have benefited from the previous project initiatives.
Kacofa’s chief executive officer, David Khisa, said over 6,000 farmers who are members of the association have benefited because they are engaged in growing crops like sunflower, soya beans and sorghum on a large scale.
Their activities include using a modern grain processing plant that is owned by the association.
“For three years, the association members grew crops on 2,000 acres of land at a commercial level. The harvesting was done using combined harvesters and this is possible because of sensitisation of the farmers, who were involved in under the farmer-to-farmer project,” he said.
Now, the members of Kacofa are set to benefit from the current project and are ready to grow high value crops like wheat and barley. They believe that this can be marketed through bulk marketing to brewery companies like Uganda Breweries Ltd, who have purchased their produce in the previous years.
The farmers are looking at maximising yields per unit area especially those growing maize from the previous 10-15 tonnes per acre to 25 -30 tonnes per acre.
This can be achieved by adopting proper cultivation practices, use of quality seed and agro inputs such as fertiliser and herbicides, proper harvest handling and bulk sales to partners like World Food Programme.
Okasai Opolot, commissioner for crop protection, ministry of agriculture, said it is timely especially if it is meant for rural farmers in terms of knowledge sharing.
He emphasised that the project should be farmer-centred to help farmers in attaining increased income for a better livelihood.