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Farmers Shun Middlemen To Increase Profits From Agricultural Produces

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Henry Nsubuga

Farming is one of the profitable businesses everyone can do so long as there is availability of land and capital to incur into it.

However, for quite some time, many farmers have been regretting their time into it after counting losses at the end of a long period of hard work and investment.

In order to beat the odds, farmers in Mukono and Buikwe districts through the promotion of local food and cash crops have come together to do serious farming as a business.

At the time of the harvest, the farmers make sure that they get to the final consumers of their products to cut short the cue which involved middlemen who reaped bigger than them.

Dauda Mugalu, a farmer dealing in local foods at Nakatyaba village in Buikwe sub-county, Buikwe district, says they have been mobilized and sensitized by Slow Food Uganda, to promote local foods, add value to them.
Mugalu adds that the organisation has also helped them to formulate markets which reduced the relevance of the middlemen and at the end increased the money they get from their harvests.

Mugalu says he grows vanilla, cassava, sweet potatoes, cocoa, vegetables, and balugu which he started growing right from childhood in his Primary Four to date.

“Though farming has been the sole business I have done for more than 30 years, I have been getting little profits compared to what I am getting now,” he said.

Mugalu adds that together with Slow Food Uganda, farmers started two farmer markets called Earth Markets in greater Mukono whereby one is located at Mukono district headquarters and another at Ngogwe town in Buikwe district.

John Wanyu, the Slow Food Uganda Biodiversity officer says the Slow Food Uganda Earth markets bring together the indigenous small scale farmers from the local communities to be able to sell their agricultural products to the final consumers.

“For decades, farmers have been regretting the little money they get from their produce as the middlemen were buying from them as they (middlemen) wished. Therefore, farming has become a regrettable business which is not the case now,” Wanyu said.

He added: “Like the people growing bananas, middlemen would buy a bunch of matooke at sh10,000. When he gets to the final consumers, that same bunch he can sell it at sh35,000, getting profits which almost triple the money he bought from the farmer. The Earth markets are now breaking the chain, empowering the farmers in their statuses to reach the final consumer,” he said.

Unlike the usual markets in villages and towns which operate on a daily basis, the Slow Food Uganda Earth markets operate weekly, giving the farmers time to concentrate in the gardens and also dedicate time for the allocated day for the market. Currently, both markets for Mukono and Buikwe operate on Friday.

Wanyu stresses that unlike during the old period of middlemen who would buy a bunch of banana at sh10,000 from the garden, when they bring them to the markets, they can sell it at sh20,000-25,000 depending on the size whereby the farmer gets some additional money yet also the consumer also saves a bit.

“As Slow Food Uganda, our main responsibilities include; saving biodiversity, protecting the environment and fighting climate change. However, we are also entitled to protecting the local farmers who help in protecting biodiversity,” he said.

In this process, Slow Food Uganda is also using the same farmers to save the indigenous food species and animals from extinction.

The organisation is however challenged as several local and international sector players have embraced the production and promotion of genetically modified seeds and crops that are fast growing with high yields.

Bena Nantongo, is a local farmer at Nakatyaba village who is among the prominent farmers of Balugu, one of the indigenous food species mainly grown in Central Uganda.

Nantongo says after the introduction of Slow Food Markets, he started earning serious money from the food crops she grows.

“Right now, I not only sell the mature Balugu but also the seeds. But recently, I almost gave out them for free for failing to get the market. We used to get people who were buying them but they were almost helping us according to the money they were giving us,” Nantongo said.

Nantongo recalls that after the introduction of Slow Food Earth market at Ngogwe, one of her harvests recently she managed to get some wholesome money amounting to sh500,000, the amount she had never got.

Francis Walusansa, a resident of Mukono town said after recognising the Slow Food Earth market at Mukono district, he resorted to buying their foodstuffs because they are also cheap and fresh from the gardens compared to the rest from other markets.

Prossy Nakisozi, the Mukono senior entomological assistant, says together with other farmers, they are keeping bees that help them to harvest honey which they sell in the Slow Food Earth market.

In order to handle some of the surplus products which in some days are left as the market day closes, farmers have been given skills of preserving their products.

At the farmers’ office at Nakatyaba, the group has got a solar drier which they use to sun dry some of their surplus farm products.

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