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Bulunguli farmers thrive with ACDP’s transformative support

What you need to know:

Production. Bulunguli Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative   Society boasts 500 members, primarily engaged in maize cultivation, alongside rice and soybeans.

In 2017, Mr Ronald Kyozira and 30 farmers founded the Bulunguli Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Society in Bulunguli Village, Buyanga Sub-county, Bugweri District.

Today, the cooperative boasts 775 members, primarily engaged in maize cultivation, alongside rice and soybeans. Initially isolated from bustling districts like Iganga, Busia, and Jinja, the farmers relied on middlemen who often delayed payments and dictated prices.

The cooperative established collection points and small storage facilities, transporting produce to Jinja and Busia to increase revenue, despite the laborious process. This all changed with the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP), a government initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries.

Mr Kyozira recalls how farmers previously bought seeds and fertilizers of questionable quality.

With ACDP, they received subsidized high-quality improved inputs via an e-voucher system.

“We were fortunate to start with a 10 percent contribution instead of 33 percent. Each farmer paid Shs45,000 and received 20 kg of hybrid maize (Bazooka longe 10H), a bag of fertilizer, a tarpaulin, insecticide, and five Purdue Improved Crop Storage PICS) PICS bags,” he says.

This attracted more farmers, growing membership from 500 at the inception of the project. The cooperative negotiated for the e-voucher agent to come to them, simplifying input distribution.

Membership in the cooperative required belonging to a village savings group, with individual and group contributions of Shs35,000 and Shs50,000, respectively. Today, there are 30 small member groups.

“Striga (witchweed) previously plagued our maize, but with improved maize seed and good agronomy practices, we manage its effects,” Mr Kyozira says.

Improved inputs led to increased yields, from four to 15 bags per acre.

Bugweri District ACDP focal person Ms Harriet Nguna notes that while the project’s minimum land requirement was one acre, farmers expanded their acreage each season due to better yields

“We now have a maize milling machine and electricity, creating jobs for mill operators, sorters, and others,” Mr Kyozira says.

Despite bumper harvests leading to price reductions, milling maize into flour and bran has stabilized earnings.

Quality assurance was key to receiving ACDP’s matching grant, prompting the cooperative to purchase land for Shs15 million. To construct milling and storage facilities, the cooperative contributed Shs78 million, and the government provided a Shs168 million grant. The new facilities include a 100-tonne storage unit, a maize mill with a 600 kg/hour capacity, a weighing scale, and a water harvesting tank, along with safety and sanitation equipment.

Postharvest handling improved with subsidized tarpaulins for drying maize and a moisture meter for quality control.

“If the moisture content is high, we dry the maize before storage. We use PICS bags that preserve maize for four months,” Mr Kyozira adds.

The grant’s impact extended beyond agriculture. The village, previously reliant on solar power, gained electricity within six months after a request to the ministry. The cooperative also acquired a tricycle for transportation and a rice mill, enhancing local milling capabilities and improving livelihoods. The village now has electricity, and five cooperative employees have married, signifying improved living standards.

The e-voucher system benefitted 8,264 farmers in Bugweri District, ensuring secure electronic money transfers and reducing corruption. The district also adopted e-Diary enhancing extension worker monitoring.

Hajji Shafiq Muziransa, Bugweri’s LCV chairman, appreciates the project’s value addition of nine machines distributed across sub-counties.

“The e-voucher system brought better farm inputs and alleviated food scarcity,” he says.

Ms Nguna adds that matching grants fostered ownership increased agricultural participation, and strengthened group cooperation. Women’s involvement also rose, with training empowering them to market produce independently.

Challenges remain, particularly market access. Ms Nguna advises farmers to proactively seek markets, targeting schools and expanding beyond Bugweri District to Jinja, Kampala, and Busia.

To ensure sustainability post-ACDP, the cooperative established a farm-in-put shop with a full-time attendant. Partnerships with produce bulkers and regular transport to Kampala and Mukono during harvest season have been crucial.

While not all district farmers benefited, the LCV Chairman urges the government to continue the program.

“Bugweri District ranks among the poorest. My plea is for the project to return, to uplift our people further as it has in Bulunguli, Dinda, and Minani parishes,” he says.

The Bulunguli Farmers Multipurpose Co-operative Society stands as a testament to the transformative power of coordinated agricultural development initiatives, fostering community growth and resilience