Author Topic: UGANDA: Kapchorwa District farmers incurring big losses  (Read 718 times)

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KAPCHORWA, 3 February 2010 (IRIN) - Eastern Uganda's mountainous district of Kapchorwa has huge agricultural potential, but farmers perennially suffer crop losses due to vermin, poor or non-existent storage and drying facilities, and lack of transport, say officials.

"This area can feed the entire northern Uganda and southern Sudan because with proper handling, a farmer can produce up to 4.2 metric tons of cereals from an acre [0.404 hectares] of land," said Wilson Chemsto, chairman of the 3,000-member Kapchorwa Commercial Farmers’ Association.

Official district statistics indicated that about 51,000 tons of cereals were produced in 2008, but 40 percent was lost to vermin or became rotten because of poor storage facilities and humid conditions.

"At 2,000 metres above sea level, with some areas higher than that, this region is quite humid, so sun-drying of produce is difficult," said Chemsto, adding: "Sun is not the best way to dry harvests here… When it is done incorrectly, we expose the harvest to parasites, and the weather here is unpredictable."

A few farmers have acquired maize shelling machines but they can be expensive to hire and wasteful. Farmers pay 1,000 shillings (51 US cents) for each threshed bag of maize, said Edward Chelangat, field maize production facilitator in the district.

"This is sometimes high for some farmers, but it is also not the best processor as there is more wastage."

Kapchorwa's population of 200,000, according to the NGO ActionAid, largely depends on subsistence farming, but the district has experienced massive degradation of natural resources due to poor farming practices that led to erosion and silting.

Paul Satya, a 28-year old primary school teacher, said several other problems had affected farming in Kapchorwa: Sometimes seeds were not good; crops needed constant spraying to kill pests; good markets were difficult to reach because of poor roads, and inputs were expensive.

"I earn up to 400,000 shillings (US$205) a year from my produce, but I want this to grow so that I can supplement my meagre salary as a teacher," he said as he prepared oxen to start a day’s work on a chilly morning.

International help

Vincent Rubarema, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, recently accompanied officials from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to Kapchorwa where a five-year initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is trying to address some of the problems.

The Purchase for Progress Initiative (P4P), launched in 2008, aims to expand market opportunities for smallholders in 21 developing countries, including Uganda.

In Kapchorwa, it is supporting farmers to construct a grain storage facility that can hold up to 2,000 tons of grain. It will contain cleaning, grading and drying equipment to reduce post-harvest losses and operate on a warehouse receipt system.

David Eckerson, head of USAID in Uganda, explained more about the project: "[Our] contribution will help farmer groups by constructing feeder roads and fully equipped grain warehouses… Retired American farmers will help train farmers in handling the food after the harvest."

WFP Country Director Stanlake Samkange said WFP was shifting its focus from humanitarian activities to addressing Uganda's medium and long-term causes of food insecurity.

Modern storage facilities would support post-harvest processing and provide safe custody for farm produce. The construction of feeder roads would link the storage facilities or market collection points to wider markets, he said, adding that WFP was aiming to double its food purchases from Uganda from about $50 million to $100 million a year.



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