Access to quality seed remains the number one challenge faced by farmers. As many prepare for the planting season, many want to access quality agro-inputs especially seed.
Much as it is a countrywide challenge, it is more pronounced in upcountry districts. Although some inputs are closer to farmers from nearby trading centres, from experience, many have not benefited. Sharon Atim from Kole district is an example.
She used to buy seed from Gulu town from a particular seed company, but access Gulu town, about 70km away, proved expensive. Given the poor state of roads, transport means are not easy to come by. Atim and many farmers had to resort to inputs within Kole. Of course the yield was not as expected.
“Some seed would germinate, some wouldn’t, you would find some plants are short others tall, and even when harvesting you wouldn’t get much,” Atim says.
Tired of the poor returns from farming, Atim decided to go to Gulu town to find another source of income. It is at that point that a friend introduced her to Equator seeds that were employing women particularly to sort grains.
It is at this point that she learnt of a plan by the company to train women and youth to become input dealers. “We thought of walking from place to place to sell, which again was a big problem, but later we learnt that were going to be given containers like those of MTN, I walked to the supervisor and requested to be considered,” Atim recalls.
She was considered for training on how to handle agro inputs like seed, fertilisers, and pesticides including the usage to be able to give buyers the right information in the processing of buying the inputs from her.
Atim, other women and youth were to get the kiosks at the start of the planting season of 2021 but couldn’t because of the countrywide lock down due to COVID-19. By the end of this month, Atim and other groups will be in position to sale the seed from their village outlets in Kole, after the delivery of the kiosks.
According to some youth, agriculture is still backward because majority of the farming population uses hand hoes, it is less paying because it takes long to mature and yet youth are interested in ventures that have quick returns on investment.
For the women, who form 30% of the workforce at Equator Seeds, due to their commitments to family aspects, they tend to have limited time for agriculture related activities therefore the kiosk modal will give them time to market farm inputs at the same time attending to their family needs, according to Rony Mutegeki, the marketing manager at Equator Seeds.
According to Mutegeki, the move will increase the productivity of the women, who offer services such as sorting of rice during production as the young men feed the machines with grains for filling.
Getting youth into agriculture:
According to Mutegeki, with the kiosks, the youth and women will be selling farm inputs including seed from their organisation like upland rice varieties. The kiosks will be equipped with quality seed, fertiliser, agro chemicals for a farmer to have a full package of inputs.
“We needed the youth to have direct business involvement. The kiosks, just like mobile money kiosks will create a fancy environment for youth and women to earn through the sale of inputs and related services,” said Mutegeki.
He explained the youth and women who will manage the kiosks will first be trained into the different chemical use and application procedures, good farming practices, before they can be allowed to carry on with their work. And each youth, who has now officially become an agent, will be visited by the an agronomists from time to understand the challenges they are facing and also ensure that farmers get value for their money.
Apart from selling agro inputs in the kiosks, these just like village agents will offer additional services such as spraying, harvesting, aggregation which will earn them an extra commission.
Why the kiosk model?
The model is one of the interventions under the Competitive African Rice Initiative in East Africa (CARI EA), funded by USAID, Bill and Melinda gates foundation, through AGRA, implemented by Kilimotrust to promote increased rice production, through access to quality rice seed.
With quality seed in place accompanied with the best farming practices, there will be more rice harvest for trade and home consumption. In the long run, will reduce the amount of money spent on rice imports to Uganda and the East African region as a whole, added Franco Alia, the head of Business development and marketing at the organization.
Ongoing efforts to increase rice production
To increase rice production, Kilimotrust worked with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) to develop especially rice seed. The goal was to increase rice production in Uganda. Available information indicates that rice production in Uganda is estimated at 238,000 MT with the total consumption estimated at 346,309 MT.
From the intervention, rice varieties such as Namche5, have been developed and handed over to equator seed for multiplication and distribution to farmers.
Namche5 variety, is one of the upland rice varieties being multiplied and given to farmers for both seed and grain production.
Under good farming practices, Namche5, giver higher yields, giving a farmer 800 kilograms of rice per acre, its upland and semi aromatic making it attractive to the consumer familiar with the low land aromatic super rice, grown mainly in the eastern region.