Linking farmers to agro input dealers

Farmer shopping for seed, fertilisers and other agro-inputs from a dealer shop. PHOTO BY LOMINDA AFEDRARU

What you need to know:

Farmers in Uganda hardly use inputs like fertilisers though using them would boost production. Lominda Afedraru examines the issue from various perspectives.

Many Ugandan farmers are yet to embrace the use of agro-input in their activities, let alone quality products from quality dealers. In light of this, there are a number of sensitisation exercises for the farmers as well as initiatives to link them with agro-input stockists depending which part of the country they are.
Farmers in eastern Uganda—in Mbale, Soroti, Sironko, Manafwa, Bududa, Katakwi, Kumi and Namutumba districts—are the focus of a programme by Usaid Agro Inputs Activity.

Address challenges
It includes an annual exhibition with agro-input dealers from selected districts. This year, the exhibition was held in Mbale and it attracted farmers and agro-input dealers from eastern Uganda.
George Davidson Wanakina, the district production and marketing officer, Mbale, explains that the exhibition is important to farmers in increasing their production if they adopt fertilisers, herbicides, agro chemicals, improved seed, animal and poultry feed, among others.
As such different players in the value chain should be involved in the network. This will help address challenges faced by farmers in selecting the right inputs.

For farmers dealing in oilseeds, the district authorities are promoting Panama sunflower breed which can be supplied to oil processing companies. For maize, they are encouraging seed companies to pack its seed in quantities ranging from 2kg to 50 kg depending on the demand with tamper-proof seals on the packages.

Appropriate information
Ronald Rwakigunda, a field operations officer with Usaid, notes that farmers need to link with agro-input dealers to avoid dealing with middlemen. His team intends to rotate the exhibitions in the 18 districts with support from different stakeholders including Uganda Seed Trade Association.
Robert Katende, another official from Usaid, adds that they are setting up a web-based platform with appropriate information that is specifically targetted at agro-input suppliers and farmers. The intention is to aid them in making informed decisions.
For instance, as far as beans are concerned farmers are encouraged to grow Nabe 4 and K132 varieties if they are in the lowlands and Nabe 12 climbing beans if they are located in the highlands.

For maize, farmers are encouraged to buy the Longe hybrid varieties while for horticulture farmers, there are the recommended pesticides. Here are the individual accounts of the various players in the value chain. A farmer, researcher, agro-inputs dealer and agronomist.

Agronomist

I am Gabriel Ewalu, an agronomist at Acila Agro-input Enterprise in Soroti. My main task is to offer advice and information to farmers on the agro inputs they have bought from us.
Basically, I tell them what works best for their particular farming activity. I advise them on how to utilise herbicides, fungicides, fertilisers and to use the right seed.
Another thing I advise them on is the proper handling of agro chemicals such as using gloves and spraying in the right direction. For example, for selective herbicides, it is advisable to use 150-200 mls for an acre. If there are perennial weeds, it is 250-300 mls.

In as far as the fungicides are measured, most manufacturers pack them in 50 grammes for the powders and 20 litres for the liquid.
We also sell quality seeds mainly from approved companies as well as the research institutes. These include African kale (sukuma wiki), eggplant, onions, cow pea, pigeon pea, maize, groundnut, and green gram.

Farmers
I am Amos Mubale, 65, from Hamoto village in Mbale District. I have been doing commercial farming for more than 10 years but using rudimentary methods where I was realising less yields.
The team from Usaid have been conducting sensitisation campaigns. They have established demonstration fields to show farmers better methods like applying fertiliser and using herbicides.
I have been doing it manually from clearing the bush using hoe, digging and transplanting from the nursery. From an acre, I would harvest 150 bags of rice. I am optimistic that with proper use of the right agro-inputs, I will get more yields.

I am Robert Kutosi, 34, a rice farmer in Bwabale village, Bulambuli district. I grow rice on two acres and I make use of fertiliser. From this, I get about 40 bags in a season. Together with other farmers, we sell as group to the cooperative union. We bulk our produce and sell to the union in Mbale or we take it to Tororo where a better price is offered. Some of the farmers in the group grow others crop such as sunflower and tomatoes, which I am thinking of doing.

Researcher
My name is Moses Emmanuel Tuka. I work with International Fertiliser Development Centre and I am based in Mbale.
We are mainly engaged in soil mapping in Kapchorwa, Sironko, Mbale, Bududa districts, among others.
This is in an effort to know which soils are fertile and which ones lack nutrients and then advise farmers accordingly on which crop to grow on which type of soil.
For example, soils in the highlands are good for maize, barley and wheat. Those in the lowlands can be utilised for rice, beans, sweet potatoes and green vegetables.
We usually advise farmers to grow rice in soils that contain nitrogen, potassium, ammonium, phosphate and sulphate but in case the soil is lacking these ingredients, farmers are advised to purchase them in form of fertilisers and add to the soil.

Since 2013, my team has been mobilising farmers in groups and sensitising them about their soil use.
In eastern Uganda, we are working with about 15,000 farmers. We also link them to agro-input dealers as well in a bid to support them obtain good yields.
We have also encouraged them to sell their produce collectively or through cooperative unions to avoid being exploited by middlemen and getting lower prices.

Agro-input dealer
My name is Robert Oryada and I am the director, Acila Agro-input Enterprise Ltd, which is based in Soroti Town.
This enterprise, which is a family business, started in 1996 by stocking grains. After ten years, it was diversified into the agro-input business.
Apart from this, we have a farm along Moroto Road where we breed citrus orange fruit, which we sell to farmers in the region.

We are also involved in the sensitisation exercises for on use of the right agro-inputs.
We do this in collaboration with Usaid, which provides the expertise as well as encouraging us to supply quality inputs that boost farmers’ production.

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