Northeastern farmers to get boost from new agricultural centres

This picture taken on June 18, 2024 shows construction of the one-stop agricultural centre taking shape in Otuke Town Council. PHOTO | BILL OKETCH

What you need to know:

  • SAA’s programme coordinator, Mr Ande Okiror, said the one-stop agricultural centres will enhance agricultural development in the beneficiary districts.

Farmers in Otuke and Abim districts are set to benefit from new one-stop agricultural centers being built in collaboration with Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA).

The centers, expected to be completed by September 2024 at a cost of Shs900 million, aim to enhance agricultural development in the region. These one-stop shops will provide farmers with a comprehensive suite of resources to boost their productivity and profitability.

The centers will be equipped with bulking stores for secure storage of produce, offices for administration, and computers with internet access to facilitate communication and information sharing. Irrigation facilities will ensure year-round crop production, while agro-input shops will provide farmers with easy access to essential supplies like seeds and fertilizers. Additionally, automated processing facilities with a capacity of 1,300 kilos per hour will streamline post-harvest handling and reduce waste. Basic office equipment like furniture and printers will also be provided.
SAA’s programme coordinator, Mr Ande Okiror, said on Tuesday that the one-stop agricultural centres will enhance agricultural development in the beneficiary districts.
“The MoFA project will further strengthen the functions of Otuke Town Council Farmers’ Saving and Credit Cooperative Organisation and Abim West Farmers’ Cooperative,” he said.
One of the project's key goals is to reduce production costs, a major challenge for Ugandan farmers. The centers will promote mechanization through the introduction of a tractor for land opening, operated by a service provider to keep costs down.
“We also have one tractor which will be placed in one of the centres either in Abim or in Otuke. One of the things we have learnt in Uganda is that our cost of production is very high because there is no mechanisation. Farmers are using rudimentary tools, and one time we did a cost of production and farmers were producing at Shs720 per kilo of maize,” Mr Okiror explained.
“Our plan is to cut the cost of production to Shs120 per kilo such that if maize is Shs300, you’re making money,” he added.
The project is expected to create jobs for local youth, with each center employing an estimated 10-15 people. These positions will include shop managers, machine operators, accountants, and computer technicians. Local laborers are also being prioritized during the construction phase, providing immediate economic benefits to the community.

Farmers have expressed their enthusiasm for the project, highlighting the need for storage facilities, processing equipment, and improved market access. Local government officials share this optimism, believing the centers will empower farmers, reduce poverty, and improve food security in the region.

Ms Eunice Akello, a farmer, said: “The most stressing challenges that affect us here are issues to do with storage facilities, grain processing machines, and market for our agricultural products.”
Mr Patrick Onyek, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (ACAO) of Otuke, thanked the development partners for the intervention and said the centres will provide farmers with the tools, knowledge, and services for productivity and profitability, helping to reduce poverty, and improve food security.
Otuke senior community development officer in charge gender, elderly and disability, Ms Winnie Angwech, said: “This is the time for Otuke to shine and I believe with this project we are going to have community development in Otuke.”
Mr Douglas Opio, sales manager with China North Machine Co. Ltd, said they have been contracted by the project to supply heavy industrial milling machines to the centres.
“We shall train the end users on how to operate, service and maintain the machines,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Okello, Otuke District commercial officer, said they will work together with Otuke Town Council Farmers’ Saving and Credit Society Ltd to ensure the project is successful.