What you need to know:
Lost fame. Farmers cooperative unions were famous in Uganda in the 1960s and 1970s when they mostly dealt in coffee, cotton and maize.
Kampala. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has injected $159m (Shs527b), towards revamping over 40,000 cooperative unions scattered across the country to make them viable businesses.
Speaking at the launch of the programme last week, Mr Jo Lesser Oltheten, the director economic growth at the US mission in Kampala, said instead of calling them farmers cooperatives, the five-year project targeting small holder farmers will rename them as producer organisations.
This is so that they become strong businesses which will create market linkages for member farmers dealing in maize, coffee and beans so they start benefiting from extension services, market linkages, good governance and proper management of the organisations.
“We want to build linkages where we have an alliance of agricultural businesses working with the farmers’ federation, civil society organisations, funding agencies and research institutions,” she said, adding that part of the activities will involve addressing the issue of in-put supplies and post-harvest handling.
The project is working with UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme to ensure that there is food security in the country to reduce hunger and poverty.
While launching the project, Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde welcomed the project saying it is in line with the reason government established the Warehouse Receipting Authority to strenthen government’s Warehouse Receipting System ,which has so far established 66 warehouses across the country.
“This is the very reason why we established the Warehouse Receipting Authority to strengthen the receipting system to benefit small holder farmers. So far, 66 warehouses have been set up by both government and the private sector across the country,” she said.
According to Herbert Kirunda, the country director Techno Serve, one of the companies implementing the project, the difference with the new initiative is that it will be ICT-driven to help the members understand how the organisations work as well as exposing them to the top notch innovations in agriculture.
Warehouse Receipting System is a model where farmers collect their produce in a government accredited warehouse which issues them with receipts that act as collateral. Producer cooperative unions are basically of two types - those producing seeds and grains as well as those dealing in livestock for either meat or other purposes.