By Angella Napakol (PhD)
Table of Contents
UCU-AIRTEA Project to Benefit Farmers
Uganda Christian University (UCU) has partnered with Psalms Food Industries (SUMZ) to help small-scale farmers in Uganda access bigger markets. This partnership is an offshoot of the UCU-AIRTEA project, which is titled “Enhancing inclusive market access for African Indigenous Vegetables (AIV), seed and value-added products by Smallholder farmers in Uganda”. The AIRTEA project is funded by the EU through the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and has a consortium of four partners with UCU as the lead partner. Other members are the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE), FarmGain Africa Ltd and Syova (U) Ltd.
Outcomes of the project
One of the key outcomes of the project is improved seed and value-added products, as well as expanded market access for small-scale farmers. SUMZ Uganda, being a major player in the African Indigenous Vegetable landscape, was contacted as one of the would-be buyers of the small-scale farmers’ products. Since then, SUMZ has participated in various trainings, including good agronomic practice and field visits to the various farmer groups and study sites. Most importantly, SUMZ has provided pumpkin seeds worth 240 acres. The farmer groups in Mityana have been planting 15 acres of land per month since February 2023.
More about the Project and Impact
The AIRTEA project aims to help small-scale farmers access bigger markets and negotiate fair prices with industry players. Previously, the majority of these farmers could not access such players because they own small pieces of land, about 0.5 to 1 acre. However, with the AIRTEA project farmer mobilization and collaboration strategy, these farmer groups are able to have 30 times more than their normal production and negotiate prices with bigger industry players.
Working with FARMGAIN, small-scale farmers and buyers have been able to sign contracts as a way to keep the commitment. One of the small-scale farmer group leaders, Ben, was impressed by the education they received, especially in regard to the signing of contracts. He said, “I like the idea of signing contracts, it makes the buyer not pull out or change the price last minute but it also compels the farmers to deliver…you see many farmers tend to relax and sometimes not work well together but with this…we just have to be organized”.
One of the registered successes of the project is a farmer group that honoured their contract and had a plentiful harvest. However, the contracted buyer at the time did not meet their end of the contract. Agitation set in among the farmers, but because they had worked in a large group and had a significant harvest, a different buyer was contracted who bought their produce at the same rate as in the contract that had been signed. This was exciting for the farmers who have vowed to increase their produce and do better in good agronomic and post-harvest practices.
The different farmer groups have also been educated about the value of the products they grow. One of the farmer group leads, for instance, noted that “traders often bring their trucks to villages to take tons of pumpkins at incredibly low prices and sell them expensively on the market. They buy pumpkins from the farmers at 500shs to 1,000shs and sell them at about 5,000shs upwards. We knew this but did not know how to address the problem, but we now know what to do…” With this knowledge, the farmers have been equipped through the AIRTEA project and the direct connection to the markets, the farmers are envisioning a much fairer market.