Justus Kasaugatu and his wife Eves Kasangaki, members of Brecco SACCO
In a Growing Business
Today we are winging our way back to Canada, our heads and hearts filled with the moving stories Ugandans shared with us – stories of how the partnership between the Canadian Co-operative Association and Uganda Co-operative Alliance has helped them to build better lives for them, their families and their communities.
For me, the memories include clasping a farmer’s black hand in mine and demonstrating the meaning of CCA’s “hand-up-versus-hand-out” approach to aid.
We were discussing the Integrated Financial Agricultural Product Initiative, an innovative program developed and delivered by the UCA in collaboration with the CCA that links agricultural co-operatives and savings and credit co-operatives to promote rural development.
In the rural areas of Northern Uganda where this model has emerged, farmers now have access to local primary co-operatives, second tier marketing and supply co-operatives, and SACCOs which provide all important financial services.
John Kennedy, a soya and maize farmer in Nyaravur, is among the 6,000 Ugandan producers that are pooling and marketing their produce through co-ops. “With this bulking we have a ready market for our products and we are realizing more profits.”
This is confirmed by IFAPI survey findings, which showed that in 2011-12, members of rural producer organizations increased their revenue by a combined 30 per cent.
The farmers we interviewed during our two-week study mission also reported significant increases in productivity as a result of the training they received in best farm management practices under IFAPI. In some cases the growers doubled and even tripled their yields thanks to this capacity building program.
The farmers also recognized that Uganda’s agriculture sector could be sustainable, even profitable, given the country’s rich natural resources, but only provided IFAPI continue to bridge their knowledge gap with training.
Indeed, Ugandan farmers have natural advantages that Canadians would envy – a favourable climate that allows for two growing seasons and the ability to produce a wide variety of crops, plus fertile soil and plenty of untilled land.
However, compared to Canada’s agriculture industry, Uganda’s is decades behind, with many of the farmers we met still using hand hoes to seed their crops. UCA officials we spoke to during our debriefing in Kampala cited two reasons for the apparent lack of progress – “politics” and over 20 years of civil war.
In some cases, farmers were forced to abandon their farms and others that remained risked having the fruits of their efforts stolen by rebel soldiers.
The war’s impact on Uganda’s agriculture sector is still very much in evidence by the rudimentary practices and tools farmers employ in production.
However, this is changing as farmers, no longer “under the rule of guns”, return to the land to carve new lives out of Uganda’s red soil, aware of the tremendous potential it holds and guided by the knowledge they have gained from IFAPI and the co-operatives it has helped to form.