Grain farmers reap a bumper harvest despite unreliable weather patterns
SNV supported farmers in Kasese District reap a bumper harvest after adopting good agricultural practices.
Walking through the small trading centre in Bigando, Kasese district, one cannot help but feel the excitement in the air. Everywhere you look, there is white maize grain drying on tarpaulins and the stores are bursting with sack loads of grain. Stationed outside Bigando Cooperative and Satellite Collection point (community grain store) is a trader from Kenya, waiting for a truck to transport his 28 tonnes of maize that he had purchased from the Bigando farmers and an additional 18 tonnes awaits his purchase inside the cooperative. Pratgex Shah’s travelled from Tika in Kenya, where his mill is located, to Kasese district to buy grain. This was not always the case. “In 2014, when we came here, we could not buy grain. The farmers were drying the grain on bare ground, now the maize is all dried on tarpaulins. In Busia which is closer to us in Kenya, traders are mixing good grain with bad grain which has affected the quality of grain, that’s why we are travelling this far because the quality of grain here is superior.”
Members of Bigando Cooperative dry their grain outside the cooperative
Buyers in the region used to also complain of limited and inconsistent supply of grain which was often of inferior quality. Smallholder farmers on the other hand grappled with limited resources and incentives to produce in bulk to meet the high market demands. In response to these concerns, SNV, in partnership with the World Food Program launched the Purchase For Progress (P4P) Initiative, within Kasese, Kabarole and Kamwenge Districts.
Five satellite collection points (SCPs) with a total storage capacity of 1,500 metric tonnes (MT) were constructed within the target districts, (four SCPs in Kasese and one in Kabarole) to support bulking and collective marketing efforts. Coupled with the SCP’s, the P4P project provided cleaning equipment to the SCPs, super grain bags, tarpaulins and improved household silos for the 6,000 farmers within the target districts to purchase at subsidized prices. This was aimed at improving post-harvest handling and the overall quality of maize and bean crops. SNV also took a leading role in the development and improvement of farmers’ capacities with respect to harvesting timelines/techniques to ensure appropriate moisture content (13.5%) which improves the crops quality and shelf life. A key intervention undertaken by SNV was reducing the practice of drying the grain on the open and bare ground; which only serve to contaminate the crop prior to sale. Our organizations efforts in ending this practice were very successful within the Bigando region; to the extent that the local leadership passed a bylaw in 2015 prohibiting the practice and requiring farmers to use tarpaulin in order to improve the quality of the grain.
The farmer’s efforts and dedication have started to pay off. Despite the severe drought conditions across the country which affected crop yields, farmers in Bigando are enjoying a bumper harvest of maize grain. We asked the Chairman of Bigando Cooperative, Baluku Jimmy about the reasons for the bumper harvest given the unreliable rains and this is what he had to say. “This season more farmers planted improved seeds that are high yielding and drought tolerant like Longe-10H and Longe-5 with guidance from SNV and the seed suppliers. Through the agro-inputs dealers’ event, farmers were connected to sustainable agro-inputs market. Farmers were thus able to buy genuine high quality seeds directly from the seed companies at wholesale prices unlike in the past where we bought seeds from third parties without any guarantee of their germination rates. SNV also sensitized us on the importance of following good agricultural practices like timely planting, line spacing, gap filling instead of broadcasting our grain which advice we followed and the results speak for themselves. Farmers are very happy and those that did not adopt good agricultural practices have been challenged.”
Bigando Cooperative has already surpassed the 52 tonnes of grain it sold in the last season and more farmers are yet to bring their grain to the cooperative. In just one month of harvesting, the cooperative has sold 84 tonnes of maize grain at a cost of 1,000 UGX per kilogramme, the highest price of any harvest season to date due to the prevailing drought conditions.