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My ACDP story: How Shs160, 000 cassava investment turned Isudo millionaire

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Julius Isudo and his wife Betty Amoding display cassava tubers harvested on May 14, 2024 in Kumi District. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

Kumi District farmer Julius Isudo will never forget August 2018--- when he first heard of the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) through media advertisements.

The ACDP is a $150 million initiative supported by the World Bank- and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) to raise production and marketable volumes of selected commodities like maize, beans, rice, cassava and coffee in specified geographic clusters across 57 districts since 2017.

Under the ACDP, 50-year-old cassava grower Isudo is amongst more than 800 of his counterparts in remote Kumi District, who received subsidized farm inputs, specifically via the program’s e-voucher purchase and payment system.

In his first season, Isudo spent around Shs160, 000 ---through a matching grant--- to obtain pesticides, ten 6 by 6metre postharvest tarpaulins and at least eight bags of stem cuttings of the Narocass 1, a cassava variety MAAIF officials describe as “high yielding.”

“I planted this cassava across 1 acre and obtained cuttings from my garden to plant 5 more acres. These 5 acres gave me stem cuttings I planted on 40 acres,” he explained on May 14 in the scorch, surrounded by foliage, at his farm in Akurac Village, Okudumo Parish in Mukongoro Sub-county.

Farmer Betty Amoding walks with cassava tubers harvested from the couple's garden on May 14, 2024 in Kumi District. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

Isudo told Monitor that fresh tubers off a single Narocass 1 cassava plant sometimes weigh up to 60kilograms, conditioning what he termed “easy bumper harvest in just over nine months.”

Previously, Isudo and thousands of other farmers in his native Akurac Village relied on other local cassava varieties that mature in about 1-3 years. 

“In my first season using Narocass 1, I got more than 1, 000kgs (1 metric ton) in one acre…After my second planting, I harvested over Shs100million from which I used Shs60million to specifically buy some houses and land -about 2kms away- in Kumi Town. My life has improved,” he narrated, accompanied by his 46-year-old wife Betty Amoding who he wedded December 2, 2023.

Farmer Julius Isudo is seen on May 15, 2024 in Kumi Town at one of his properties he bought at about Shs60million after selling cassava. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

However, Isudo, who has become a nucleus for the crop’s supply, decried falling cassava prices due to a high ACDP-induced production capacity in Uganda’s Teso Sub-region as an imminent market disruptor.

“Currently, there’s too much supply. I’m now expecting more than Shs100million from my 40 acres if the prices normalize but if the price fluctuation persists, then I could earn about Shs40million from an acre,” he observed.

 ‘No more farming gambler’

Although Isudo was in 2011 recognized as Kumi District’s best cotton farmer, in addition to previously being a major supplier of sorghum to Ugandan beer manufacturing giant Nile Breweries, he acknowledged that ACDP has ridded him of “being a farming gambler.”

“Even if the initiative is ending, we are not worried about sustainability because ACDP opened our eyes and we are ready to continue,” the renowned Kumi agro produce businessman added.

Still on May 14, 2024, two of Isudo’s eight children revealed that surpluses from their father’s cassava exploits have impacted and rendered the 1995 fisherman able to take care of 20 other relatives around the farmstead, even as the family eclipses 40 people during festive seasons.

Speaking during his ongoing S6 vacation, 23-year-old James Onapakol said he was already embracing the opportunities that have come along with ACDP as he eyes becoming a major agro produce supplier.

“Dad’s story has been a learning point for us. I’m preparing for university but I have been digging my own cassava, and money from that garden will contribute to my tuition,” he noted.

Julius Isudo (L) and James Onapakol (R) speak to the reporter (David Vosh Ajuna) on May 14, 2024 in Kumi District. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

Onapakol’s S4 18-year-old brother named after their father added that: “Dad used to fish and ride a bicycle, trading his catch to the neighbouring Serere District. The story has changed overtime, and our family has been transformed much after the ACDP initiative which we shall carry on.”

Kumi District Agriculture Officer (DAO) and ACDP focal person Joseph Okiria stressed that the initiative has had an enormous influence in improving farmer livelihoods in the area.

“The project has not only boosted rice and cassava production but also addressed food shortages in Teso Sub-region. It also created employment and linkages to markets,’’ he viewed.

Like Isudo and his sons who spoke to Monitor, Okiria urges continuity and nationwide coverage of the ACDP initiative which ends May 31, 2024 in Uganda.

Okiria argues that some Kumi District farmers long-late got on the initiative’s train as they had trust issues considering that the ACDP’s concept required beneficiaries to advance some fund like the grantor, unlike government programs like Naads that offer totally free agriculture services to farmers.

“Kumi District was given a target of 2, 000 farmers but along the way, the demand was overwhelming and we were able to surpass the target, registering 4, 850 farmers. In the second phase, we were given a target of 3, 000 farmers but got 3,033 farmers which means there was an overwhelming demand for the project,” he disclosed.

“We call upon World Bank and government to continue the project so that more farmers are supported especially those who were left out,” Okiria added, highlighting those earlier glitches in the initiative’s e-voucher system had been solved in Kumi District.

While failed power connectivity has delayed a bid for cassava value addition by at least one farmer cooperative group in Kumi, district authorities insist they’ve noticed that farmers “presently appreciate the importance of using improved seed, other agriculture enhancing inputs and advisory services which scales up sustainability of initiatives like ACDP.”

‘Never since creation’

Kevin Isoto, the female district councilor for Mukongoro Town Council in Kakures Sub-county hailed ACDP for connecting mainland Kumi District to Tiisai Island by constructing a road choke over a 3km water expanse.

“It had never happened since creation. Tiisai Island had been lagging and deprived of all government amenities, but this road choke offers hope for more than 5, 000 people on the island,” she held.

Kumi District farmer Julius Isudo will never forget August 2018--- when he first heard of the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) through media advertisements.

The ACDP is a $150 million initiative supported by the World Bank- and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) to raise production and marketable volumes of selected commodities like maize, beans, rice, cassava and coffee in specified geographic clusters across 57 districts since 2017.

Under the ACDP, 50-year-old cassava grower Isudo is amongst more than 800 of his counterparts in remote Kumi District, who received subsidized farm inputs, specifically via the program’s e-voucher purchase and payment system.

How ACDP is improving fortunes for rural farmers

In his first season, Isudo spent around Shs160, 000 ---through a matching grant--- to obtain pesticides, ten 6 by 6metre postharvest tarpaulins and at least eight bags of stem cuttings of the Narocass 1, a cassava variety MAAIF officials describe as “high yielding.”

“I planted this cassava across 1 acre and obtained cuttings from my garden to plant 5 more acres. These 5 acres gave me stem cuttings I planted on 40 acres,” he explained on May 14 in the scorch, surrounded by foliage, at his farm in Akurac Village, Okudumo Parish in Mukongoro Sub-county.

Isudo told Monitor that fresh tubers off a single Narocass 1 cassava plant sometimes weigh up to 60kilograms, conditioning what he termed “easy bumper harvest in just over nine months.”

Previously, Isudo and thousands of other farmers in his native Akurac Village relied on other local cassava varieties that mature in about 1-3 years. 

“In my first season using Narocass 1, I got more than 1, 000kgs (1 metric ton) in one acre…After my second planting, I harvested over Shs100million from which I used Shs60million to specifically buy some houses and land -about 2kms away- in Kumi Town. My life has improved,” he narrated, accompanied by his 46-year-old wife Betty Amoding who he wedded December 2, 2023.

How ACDP is improving fortunes for rural farmers

However, Isudo, who has become a nucleus for the crop’s supply, decried falling cassava prices due to a high ACDP-induced production capacity in Uganda’s Teso Sub-region as an imminent market disruptor.

“Currently, there’s too much supply. I’m now expecting more than Shs100million from my 40 acres if the prices normalize but if the price fluctuation persists, then I could earn about Shs40million from an acre,” he observed.

 ‘No more farming gambler’

Although Isudo was in 2011 recognized as Kumi District’s best cotton farmer, in addition to previously being a major supplier of sorghum to Ugandan beer manufacturing giant Nile Breweries, he acknowledged that ACDP has ridded him of “being a farming gambler.”

“Even if the initiative is ending, we are not worried about sustainability because ACDP opened our eyes and we are ready to continue,” the renowned Kumi agro produce businessman added.

Still on May 14, 2024, two of Isudo’s eight children revealed that surpluses from their father’s cassava exploits have impacted and rendered the 1995 fisherman able to take care of 20 other relatives around the farmstead, even as the family eclipses 40 people during festive seasons.

Speaking during his ongoing S6 vacation, 23-year-old James Onapakol said he was already embracing the opportunities that have come along with ACDP as he eyes becoming a major agro-produce supplier.

“Dad’s story has been a learning point for us. I’m preparing for university but I have been digging my own cassava, and money from that garden will contribute to my tuition,” he noted.

Onapakol’s S4 18-year-old brother named after their father added that: “Dad used to fish and ride a bicycle, trading his catch to the neighbouring Serere District. The story has changed overtime, and our family has been transformed much after the ACDP initiative which we shall carry on.”

Kumi District Agriculture Officer (DAO) and ACDP focal person Joseph Okiria stressed that the initiative has had an enormous influence in improving farmer livelihoods in the area.

“The project has not only boosted rice and cassava production but also addressed food shortages in Teso Sub-region. It also created employment and linkages to markets,’’ he viewed.

Like Isudo and his sons who spoke to Monitor, Okiria urges continuity and nationwide coverage of the ACDP initiative which ends May 31, 2024 in Uganda.

Kumi District Agriculture Officer (DAO) and ACDP focal person Joseph Okiria speaks during an interview on May 15, 2024 in Kumi District. PHOTO/MICHEAL KAKUMIRIZI

Okiria argues that some Kumi District farmers long-late got on the initiative’s train as they had trust issues considering that the ACDP’s concept required beneficiaries to advance some fund like the grantor, unlike government programs like Naads that offer totally free agriculture services to farmers.

“Kumi District was given a target of 2, 000 farmers but along the way, the demand was overwhelming, and we were able to surpass the target, registering 4, 850 farmers. In the second phase, we were given a target of 3, 000 farmers but got 3,033 farmers which means there was an overwhelming demand for the project,” he disclosed.

“We call upon World Bank and government to continue the project so that more farmers are supported especially those who were left out,” Okiria added, highlighting those earlier glitches in the initiative’s e-voucher system had been solved in Kumi District.

While failed power connectivity has delayed a bid for cassava value addition by at least one farmer cooperative group in Kumi, district authorities insist they’ve noticed that farmers “presently appreciate the importance of using improved seed, other agriculture enhancing inputs and advisory services which scales up sustainability of initiatives like ACDP.”

‘Never since creation’

Kevin Isoto, the female district councilor for Mukongoro Town Council in Kakures Sub-county hailed ACDP for connecting mainland Kumi District to Tiisai Island by constructing a road choke over a 3km water expanse.

“It had never happened since creation. Tiisai Island had been lagging and deprived of all government amenities but this road choke offers hope for more than 5, 000 people on the island,” she held.