Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Uganda
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Uganda
The demand for organic fruits and vegetables is expected to rise due to the increasing worldwide awareness of healthy diets and environmental issues. At the same time, growing High Value Crops has proved to be a good strategy in lifting small scale farmers out of poverty. Considering that at least 70% of the world’s poverty live in rural areas, attention to this is a necessity.
Uganda has the perfect climate and landscape to supply this demand of organic fruits and vegetables. It benefits from a bimodal rainfall pattern, has several water bodies and rivers and a high quantity of arable land. Uganda is located on the equator, which means they can produce all year round. Despite the potential and the government interest, the farming sector in Uganda is underdeveloped and in need of heavy reforms.
The last years, there have been several projects to organise the farmers. A total of 764 farmers (256 women & 508 men) are now organised in four farmers' organisations: Sabiny Agro-Commodity Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Ltd , Kwapa Vegetable Farmers’ Cooperative Society, Bududa Yetana Area Cooperative Enterprise Ltd/ Shunya Yetana CBO and Tororo Fruits and Vegetable Farmers Coop Society. They are specialised in growing passion fruits and onions.
The major part of farmers have a multi-crop plantation: growing vegetables, passion fruits and basic grains. They live in isolated farms situated on the slopes of Mount Elgon. The area is densely populated so each farmer has a very limited space. There is only one asphalted road in the entire region and the rural paths are not accessible during the rainy season. The quality of education is low and there is a high level of school dropouts. All urban centers have electricity but only a few houses are connected to the grid.
- High incidences of pests which affects the productivity, especially in the passion fruit.
- There is a need to improve the quality of the produce. A shortage of skilled agronomists makes it difficult for farmers to get the market certifications (GLOBALG.A.P.), which will open the way to the higher value European market.
- Issue of fake/low quality agricultural inputs, like fake seeds, low quality fertilizers,… , find their way to the market. It is a challenge for farmers to determine good quality inputs from counterfeits.
- With limited or nonexistent irrigation, most crops depend exclusively on rain. Climate change is making this traditional farming method much less reliable. A better, more efficient water supply can guarantee higher yields and more stable production.
- High transaction costs due to the poor road conditions, which make transport extremely difficult during the rainy season. To improve the situation, the maintenance of the roads was decentralised to the local district councils.
- Difficulty to access credit by farmers due to the lack of local credit unions, as well as difficulties for creditors to assess credit risks of individual farmers.
- Weak farmers' organisations lead to an inefficient market chain where the producers cannot sell collectively and need middle men.
- The farmers do not have enough market knowledge to be an active partner in the negotiations.
- The Ugandan export sector is poorly funded, consisting of small and undercapitalised exporting companies that cannot support the farmers. Strengthening them will improve the trade.
- Due to the lack of opportunities, young people leave the rural areas, endangering the future of the trade.
- To deal with pests, we will link the farmers with Research Institutes to establish sustainable disease-free nurseries within the farming communities.
- To improve quality, we will work together with the company Amfri Farms Limited in helping farms to get their GLOBALG.A.P. and UgoCert certifications by establishing a **Quality Management System **and monitoring their compliance through training in Good Agricultural Practices.
- We will promote the creation of Village Savings and Loans Associations. This will enable the farmers to access credit and install irrigation systems.
- We will give training on market systems and collective sales to the farmers.
- We will train the members of the four farmers' organisations on management **and how to create **business plans to access governmental funding.
- We will encourage the farmers' associations to open participation spaces for young people so they can feel more involved in the trade.
- To improve the road infrastructure, we will support the farmers' lobbying activities towards the local government.
- To strengthen the trade, we will facilitate partnerships between exporters and the producers' organisations.
- We will create multi stakeholder meetings where we will share our best practices and experiences. This can encourage companies to establish sourcing policies that are inclusive towards smallholder farmers.
What do we expect to achieve by 2017?
- Research on product lines.
- Farmers' organisations will be providing business development services to their members on different aspects of sustainable agricultural production, post-harvest handling, natural resource management and marketing information.
- At least 50% of total sales will be done collectively as a result of long-term contracts with export companies and local formalised markets.
- At least 20% of production will meet the international standards and can be sold to international markets.
- An increment of production up to 5 tons will be exported on a monthly basis.
- The lobby efforts of the farmers’ association will encourage the local government to improve maintenance of rural roads.
- Farmers will succeed in influencing the legal framework for smallholder farming in a positive way.
- The farmers will have access to credit through the Village Savings. Farmers' organisations will also have access to governmental loans.
- At least 2000 people will have participated in some VECO promotional activities, as a result, 3 to 7 export companies will have changed their sourcing policies to include small farmers.
What do we expect in the long term?
- Demand for sustainable products increases.
- Improvement of the policy environment.
- Inclusion of youth and women in the sub sector development.
- The profitable partnership of the farmers with Amfri will motivate other companies to become more inclusive.
- The organic vegetables and fruit trade will become a key economic sector for Uganda.
- The European and other western markets will get a steady supply of organic fair trade vegetables and fruits.
- Opening new spaces for participation to include young people, together with the improvements in productivity and quality will make farming attractive again for the new generation and will stop the rural exodus.