Tag Archives: Agriculture

Time for Smallholder Farmer Empowerment

For ages, the smallholder farmer has been regarded as a small earner. The urban dwellers have always been contented partaking of cheap food supplies while reserving their serious money for ostentatious activities like drinking alcohol, consuming imported supplies and gyrating in discotheques.

Food was taken for granted and the plight of the peasant farmers was only given lip service. Many theorised on how they could be able to earn more and most proposals ended on paper.

The past three years have heralded a new dawn for the smallholder farmers in Uganda. Food prices have increased steadily and caused an outcry among the consumers. This has resulted into a high food inflation.

Food Inflation is in simple terms defined as an increase in the price of food.
Early this year (2022), you could buy A Kilogram of Posho at UGX 1500/=, eight months down the road, that same Kilogram costs UGX 3500/=.
You could buy a Kilogram of Beans at UGX 2000/=, eight months down the road, that same Kilogram costs UGX 4500/=.
Rice on average cost UGX 2,500/= a Kilogram then and today one can hardly get that Kilogram at less than UGX 4,000/=.
All this points to food inflation. The graph below shows the trends of food inflation in Uganda over the past four years and it is clear that the past two years have depicted a very sharp rise.

The consumer is definitely experiencing alot of pain in the process however, what is happening to the farmer? For once the farmer has an opportunity to enjoy decent returns from their food crops. The farm gate price of a number of food crops is equivalent to the urban retail price of the same produce a year ago. This implies that there is more money to be earned by the farmers hence having a positive impact on their livelihoods.
I have grown rice for over three decades but two months back, I registered the highest farm gate price for my produce when a Kilogram was bought at UGX 3600, a price point I used to reach after transporting it over 250Km to the capital city Kampala. What amused me most was the broken rice which also was bought at UGX 2,700, a price much higher than the one of the previous season when rice was averaging UGX 1,400 a Kilo.

The saying, One man’s meat is another man’s poison comes into play here. The poison to the consumers are the high prices while the meat to the farmers is the increasing prices. Could this be signalling a new era that is going to lead to a higher income class of smallholder farmers?

I respond in the affirmative. I cannot deny my happiness seeing the food inflation in place. Year in, year out, I see what the farmers go through and being one too, I have always prayed for the times to change so they start getting adequate reward for their toil. The writing is on the wall, with the ever increasing rural – urban migration, the need to supply food is growing. The opening up of global markets and improving value addition of our food crops is also positioning this country to be a key regional and global supplier of foods. This therefore indirectly extends the demand for the farmers’ produce beyond the national boundaries to markets that can pay even more.

Then the argument comes in, who actually makes the killing when prices rise? Is it the farmers or the middlemen? For every increment in consumer price, a conservative estimate indicates that not more than 30% goes directly to the producer. The rest is swallowed up by the supply chain.

I believe, at this point in time, effort should be put in ensuring the following among smallholder farmers;

  • The formation of farmer groups (product specific if possible)
  • Training on producing with the consumer in mind
  • Financial literacy
  • Facilitation of market access
  • Value addition

By tackling all or some of these, the incomes of these farmers are likely to extend beyond the current growth. I do foresee the farmer progressively earning more and have improved livelihoods as we head into the future and this is the time for anyone that has ever had interest in farming to join and partake of what is coming.

Farming is finally going to make alot of sense. What are you waiting for?

James Wire
Agribusiness & Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames

WFP – Promote Local Ugandan Producers

For once I realise that when Ugandan Public officials choose to use logic to reason out issues, they can be spot on. On Thursday 22nd April 2021, the Honourable Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Engineer Hillary Onek without mincing words and in response to the United Nations Resident Coordinator stated that, “I don’t agree that our farmers toil and suffer to get market for their produce, and then you are telling me the quality. Which quality has failed? All of you (UN officials) are eating Ugandan food you buy from the market here. Why are you thinking of quality now? I don’t agree with that because that is a way of protecting [food market for] the foreign [people] in America and other places. You want money to remain there. We also want market for our food and we are very strong on that.”

There has been a sense of taking Uganda for granted, a country known to be very refugee friendly. You keep hearing of food supplies being imported from other countries and the story peddled by agencies like the World Food Programme is the lack of quality. While they may have a point, it is a feeble one as effectively responded to by the Minister.

If these entities are genuinely interested in empowering Uganda to handle these refugees, is it better for them to continue sourcing food expensively from foreign suppliers or empowering local value chains to ensure that they get the quality and quantity they need? That song of poor quality is a ruse and has been sung for long.

In June 2019, a story broke out of food poisoning in Karamoja and the very WFP was accused. Four people died in the process while hundreds got affected. The culprit was a fortified porridge blend called Super Cereal supplied by a Turkish firm, the Demirpolat Group. This is allegedly a big multinational firm according to online sources having numerous contracts to supply the UN with food. How could it supply poisonous food if indeed it meets the standards that the UN Resident director was pointing out?

It is intriguing to note that a subsequent investigation launched into the matter yielded inconclusive results. Really? People die after eating the food and you fail to trace the fault in the food? It is time for us to stop stomaching such crappy talk aimed at lining the pockets of international capitalists when our local farmers are failing to get adequate market for their produce.

If quality is an issue, I know for a fact that improving quality of foods produced shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to solve. The factors affecting it are known and it’s a matter of just pulling a few strings and all will fall in place. I have engaged in similar quality upgrade of the rice value chain and seen results out of the small efforts we undertake. How much more would happen if WFP with its millions of dollars undertook that initiative?

What further hurts is going to Turkey to get fortified porridge when in Uganda we have numerous companies that make very good fortified foods. One of them exports high grade fortified posho to Khartoum and WFP keeps a blind eye over that? Someone somewhere is not being genuine and wants to keep Ugandans poor while praising them for being hospitable. Does mere hospitability bring food on our tables?

I am glad within a day of the Minister’s pronouncement, the WFP came up and agreed to purchase food from local suppliers.

“We have made affirmative action to buy (relief food directly) from Uganda for national and regional intervention of WFP. We already started purchasing maize for school feeding programme in Karamoja from local farmers such as a group of female farmers in Kaabong District,” Mr El Khidir Daloum (WFP Country Director) said.

“But they (farmers and traders) need to observe quality. We are open to provide technical support and train people on post-harvest handling,” he further added.

As a country, I hope the Minister’s stand ends up rewarding the numerous Cooperative Societies, Small and Medium Enterprises as well as Commercial farmers involved in Agribusiness. There is a fear lurking that this directive might be a veiled effort to further reward those that were responsible for providing poor quality food supplies for distribution during the Covid-19 Lockdown period. For once Honourable Minister Onek, surprise us further by ensuring equitable access to these WFP opportunities.

James Wire

Agribusiness Consultant

Twitter – @wirejames

Email – lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

The Wire Perspective

YouTube – James Wire

Additional Information from: