On a hill in Mende, Wakiso district, a big, brick structure houses a saviour, according to residents! This is in form of a fairly modern maize mill, constructed with support from the Government of Uganda, through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). The modernised mill has been in operation since 2020.
“We call it a miracle because it has saved us the odious task of carrying our maize grain to as far as Nansana, 20km away for milling,” says Fred Masaba, a farmer. Masaba does his farming at Bakka, about 3km from the mill. “I grow maize every season, however I and fellow farmers were making losses because we could not add value to our maize,” Masaba says.
The mill, run by retired Capt. Fred Mubiru, under
his Serinya Agro-processors was constructed with the help of the Government. “We had a lot of maize wasted in this area because we did not have a good mill. We lobbied government and through NAADS we got this here. It is already changing the fortune of maize farmers by giving them better prices,” he says. Unlike other mills, this one is equipped with a destoner and grain cleaner. “Because of this added component, the quality of flour that comes out more refined,” Mubiru says. It has a capacity to mill 2,000kg per day.
“We can mill over 14,000kgs a week or at least 56,000kg a month. This can take care of most of the dried maize in this area,” Mubiru says. With the sh200, subsidised charges to farmers
, the mill is able to take care of operational costs including power, water and allowances for the technical personnel running it.
Maize production in the central region
Production of maize has increased over the years with an increasing trend towards commercial production attributed partially to increased adoption of improved maize varieties by farmers. Whereas maize is predominantly a staple food crop, it’s also an important cash crop contributing to household incomes & national export earnings.
Maize production statistics based on district returns to UBOS show a steady increase overtime from 1.17 million MT in 2001 to about 2.55 million MT in 2011 and 4.55 million MT in 2020. This is attributed to a steady increase in acreage due to expansion of maize production, increased use of improved seed, especially hybrid seed and use of fertilizers especially by commercial farmers.
It is worth noting that due to Uganda’s favourable weather, farmers in most parts of the country can grow maize in two (2) seasons.
NAADS has made a tremendous contribution towards the increase in production through the distribution of improved maize seed to the farmers.
However, the report says that most of the maize in the country is sold without any value addition.
“63% of the maize is sold without being processed,” the report says. According to Khadija Nakakande, in Charge of Communications at NAADS, this is one of several modern mills handed out to farmers across the country.
“We have a similar mill in Kiryandongo and plans to install others are underway,” she says.
The entire unit cost sh130m. The beneficiaries co-fund the projects by providing land for the mills and management of the property. In nearly all his Presidential addresses, President Yoweri Museveni has lamented at the practice of selling raw, unprocessed maize. However, farmers think that if more of these small-scale processing units are set up, then this challenge will be solved.
“I think that if every maize growing sub-county in the country is equipped with a mill of this size, then losses suffered due to low maize prices will not occur again,” says Masaba.
Mechanisation for efficiency
Nkondo Multipurpose Rural Produce, a farmer group for youth at Nkondo-Kiwaba town council in Buyende district was given a tractor by NAADS which has promoted commercial agriculture in the community.
Cornelius Kalebi, the chairman of the group explains that the tractors have improved their production.
‘We were given this tractor by NAADS about five years ago. At the time we were 20 members but because of the improvement in our incomes, more community members have joined that we are now 250 members,” he explains.
According to Kalebi, the tractor has increased acreage of members especially those growing maize as they hire the tractor to clear the land at shs70,
“This has also improved members’ incomes as they can now plant on time thus improving their harvest and incomes as well,” he explains.
In a bid to mechanize agriculture for improved production and productivity, the Government of Uganda through NAADS under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), has so far procured 370 tractors and implements that have been availed to farming communities across the country under the MAAIF strategy for promotion of agricultural mechanization.
The tractors were procured in phases, with the first batch of 40 tractors that the Government piloted in Western Uganda for pasture multiplication in 2017. An additional 280 we procured in 2019/2020 and in 2020/21, 50 tractors were procured and distributed. In the current year 2022/23, 20 more tractors are to be procured.
Water For Irrigation
In the recent past years, Uganda has experienced climate change and variability which has caused low food production due to prolonged drought that affects many farmers. Water remains the most critical factor of agricultural production in Uganda. The agricultural production systems are largely rain fed. In western Uganda the big percentage of households depend on crop farming and livestock.
This means that any change in climate will either affect them positively or negatively but in this case the problem of drought that usually occurs in months of May up to august affects them very much. This has impelled the Government to support farmers with small scale on-farm demonstrations through NAADS program for solar powered irrigation systems to avert the adverse effects of climate change.
Jonathan Ahimbisibwe from Katonya village in Katerera sub-county Rubirizi district is among the 124
68beneficially of solar powered irrigation system which was given to him by NAADS in 2018.
He says that before receiving a solar powered irrigation system, he was using other farming methods of irrigating crops like watering cans and water pumps, but all these methods were not achievable. Since it needed manpower and even it was expensive when it comes to fuel consumption, maintenance of the generator.
On part of harvesting, Ahimbisibwe used to target the rainy season for planting because he was sure that in the dry season that was a total loss to him and other farmers. This practice would limit him from expanding his field of farming which was again an obstacle though he had enough land.
The introduction of solar power irrigation systems in 2018 to his farm brought light and wealth in his home because everything he was doing at the farm changed. Before he used to practice onion farming on 2acres of land and he would only harvest one season in a year since he fired drought. As we talk now he has increased acreage to 7acres and he harvests throughout the year because he no longer fears the dry season.
The support targets both crop and livestock farmers in areas with long dry spells for crop irrigation and livestock watering in cattle corridors.
The support was given to those farmers who expressed interest on behalf of other farmers. The selected farmers who benefitted are those who had not less than 5 acres of farm land, a reliable source of water at the farm.
NAADS has distributed over 12
30 solar water pumping systems to farmers across the country, with a plan to cover all sub counties in the country. Each solar water pumping system is valued at an average of sh100m with a capacity of 2 to 4 cubic meters per hour.
Those who were given solar water pumping systems were given to them for demonstration purposes to enable farmers in communities to adapt to the system. The support was given to farmers on a cost sharing basis with NAADS providing the water pumping system and giving guidance to farmers on how to develop the downstream watering system or the reticulation networks.
NAADS Achievements at a glance
- Increased access to critical farm inputs for over six (6) million households through the distribution of quality seeds and planting materials as well as livestock materials.
- NAADS contributed to reduction of households surviving in the subsistence economy from 68% to 39%.
- NAADS increased technology uptake for improved varieties of seed and vegetative planting materials of Cassava (Narocass 1); Maize seed (H614, UH5051, Longe 7H,9H,10H & 11H); Bean seed (NABE 15,16,17,19 & Naro Bean 1,2 & 3; K132); Seso 3; Cashew nut (AC4, AC43, AA7); Citrus (Washington navel, Valencia and Hamlin) among others.
- NAADS contributed to the increase in production of major enterprises notably;
- Maize production increased by 92.3 %, from 2.6 million MT in 2016 to 5 million MT in 2019.
- Cassava production increased by 131%, from 3 million MT in 2016 to 7 million MT in 2019.
- Tea production increased by 14%, from 61,629 MT in 2015 to 70,338 MT in 2019. The tea intervention triggered the establishment of 14 new tea factories.
- NAADS contributed to the remarkable increase in the volume exports of major enterprises notably;
- Maize volume exports increased by 6%, from 263,114 MT in 2016 to 278,693 MT in 2019.
- Tea volume of exports increased by 36.8%, from 50,782 MT in 2015 to 69,520 MT in 2019.
- Fruits and vegetables export increased by 20%, from 57,358 MT in 2015 to 68,862 MT in 2019
- Cocoa export volumes increased by 19%, from 29,761 MT in FY 2015/16 to 35,318 MT in FY 2018/19,
- A total of 370 tractors distributed to various farmer groups to scale up farm production for commercialisation of agriculture.
- Constructed 12 Community Grain Stores (equivalent to 3500 MT) in 11 different districts of Napak, Adjumani, Kiryandongo, Masindi, Hoima, Kyenjonjo, Mubende, Kakumiro, Kiboga, Nakaseke and Kyegegwa.
- Distributed 141 sets of milk coolers and matching generators to dairy farmer organizations in various districts across all the milk sheds in the country.
- Distributed the following milling equipment to farmer groups in over 100 Local Governments and municipalities across the country.;
- 124 units of maize milling equipment
- 13 units of feed milling equipment
- 14 sets of rice milling equipment
- Distributed 124 solar powered irrigation systems to increase access to water for production.
Story filed by Joshua Kato and Herbert Musoke