Over 4,100 Ugandan farmers reap higher soybean yields

The Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) partnership with four Ugandan Agribusinesses working in the soybean value chain has restored hope to over 4,100 soybean farmers (1,800 of whom are female).

With the support from the project, the SMEs procured and sold 59.7 tonnes of MakSoy 3N to the farmers for seed and grain production during the March to June 2020 planting season. By the end of August 2020, the 4,100 farmers had harvested 1,449,610kgs (1,450 tonnes) of soybean from a total acreage of 2,458 acres despite planting late in the season compared to their previous yield of 1,040 tonnes.   

Soybean in Uganda

Uganda produces annually about 23,000 tonnes of soybeans from an area of 36,000 hectares (UBOS – Uganda Census of Agriculture 2008/2009). It is estimated that the economic losses from the agricultural sector alone from the impacts of climate change will be about USD1.5 billion by 2050 (Zinyengere et al., 2016) if nothing is done. The adoption of climate smart and ecologically sustainable production methods is key to improving productivity of the existing food crop production and supply systems. With climate change however having varying effects on different geographical regions, as well as on different crops, there is need for concerted efforts and joint investments by the supply chain partners, as well as public and support agencies in the different value chains to support effective adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The CRAFT Approach

The Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) project uses a private sector approach to promote inclusive and resilient growth in agricultural food value chains. The project interventions are based on Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) agribusinesses to improve food security by supporting the SMES to build climate resilient farming systems which increase productivity while reducing food waste and losses throughout the supply chain.

Co-investment with the private sector is one of the key strategies identified by the CRAFT project to achieve sustainable results. Through its Climate Innovation and Investment Facility (CIIF), the CRAFT project supports  performance-based grants through the private sector. SMEs and their contracted farmers are supported by the project through a combination of climate smart agricultural practices and technologies, interventions to de-risk and facilitate the scaling of climate smart investments in the value chains.

Some of the adaptive strategies with potential to benefit the entire value chain that the project is promoting through the SMEs include; the use of improved drought tolerant, high yielding and early maturing seeds and practising good agronomic practices (like minimum tillage – ripper planting, contour ploughing for hilly topography, timely planting, correct fertilizer application, crop rotation, timely weeding, integrated pest management, good post-harvest handling technics and storage management).

Private sector promotes soybean

Okeba Uganda Limited is one of the CRAFT partners working in the soybean value chain in the districts of Mubende, Kakumiro, Kyegegwa and Kyenjojo. The company met resistance from farmers when they first tried to introduce soybean as a climate-resilient crop. Most of the farmers cited production challenges and lack of a sustainable market. Even the district teams during the inception meetings doubted whether Okeba would be able to get the farmers to grow soybean. The company however resolved to introduce the MakSoy 3N through community demonstration and learning centres where they offered to train farmers on different climate-resilient practices and technologies for growing soybean.

We encouraged individual farmers who wanted to host demonstration gardens to register and assigned farmers nearby to these demonstration  gardens. A total of 50 farmers accepted to host the demonstration gardens, with each host mentoring a group of 37 farmers each.  All the training on climate-smart practices and technologies were carried out through these demo gardens. We gave away 20kg of improved MakSoy 3N to each demo host to plant. Subsequently, we were able to mobilise all the 1,850 farmers attached to the 50 demo gardens to buy soybean from us to plant on an average of a quarter of an acre of land as a trial. Given the COVID-19 restrictions and the fact that it was already late in the planting season, we were encouraged by the number of farmers willing to venture into and plant soybean,” Kenneth Owoyesigyire, Managing Director Okeba Uganda Limited said.

Throughout the cropping season, it rained only twice, but the soybean crop continued to flourish. Despite the drought and late planting, Okeba’s farmers harvested an average of 412kgs of soybean per acre, most of which was bought by Okeba. Okeba injected a total of UGX507,880,000 (USD137,451) into the community in just a single season from purchasing the farmers’ soybean harvest. “Farmers were very excited even though their yields were less than what was expected due to drought and late planting, in comparison to other beans planted at the same time, they realised that their soybean crop had performed much better. This season, we have been overwhelmed by demand from farmers who want our seed and have applied to grow soybean.  So far, we have sold 20,000kg (20 tonnes) of MakSoy 3N to over 4,000 farmers and we expect the yield to double that of the previous season now that farmers have planted in time and are practising good agronomic practices,” Kenneth Owoyesigyire added.

A farmer’s journey back to soybean growing

Zainab a host farmer in Kyenjojo district was one of the farmers who resisted Okeba’s proposal to grow soybean. “My parents used to grow soybean using local ordinary seed when I was young. The soybean would take about six months to mature. When the soybean matured, the pods would burst and split open, scattering the grain all over the garden. This was worsened by the limited numbers of buyers available. As a result, my parents often failed to sell their beans. Eventually, we abandoned soybean and resorted to other crops like beans and maize. Before the lockdown, we received training and MakSoy 3N from OKEBA Uganda. We were taught that MakSoy 3N is drought resistant, high-yielding, and matured within 90 – 110 days. True to what we had been told during the training, the soybean pods stayed intact the entire time that it was drying in the gardens, unlike the ones my parents used to plant many years ago that would split open if left to dry in the garden,” Zainab reflects on her journey back to soybean growing.

Zainab one of the host farmers stands by her demonstration garden

From her garden, Zainab harvested 450kgs of soybean last season. She sold 400kgs at UGX ,000 per kg to Okeba and earned UGX800,000 ( USD216).  She used part of the money - UGX700,000 ( USD189) to pay for a new plot in her village and saved UGX100,000 ( USD27) with her Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) group. In the next planting season, Zainab plans to increase her MakSoy 3N soybean acreage to two acres.

About CRAFT

The CRAFT Project is implemented by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in partnership with Wageningen University and ResearchCGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food SecurityAgriterra, and Rabo Partnerships with funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The overall project goal is to contribute to increased availability of accessible and climate-resilient food for the growing population in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania by partnering with private businesses to catalyse sector transformation. In Uganda, the CRAFT project has so far signed partnership agreements with eleven SMEs working in the soybean and sesame value chains with a potential to reach 90,000 smallholder farmers.

By Bashir Kasekende (CRAFT Uganda Project Manager), James Kebirungi and Peter Atine (Agronomists with the CRAFT project – Uganda)

Expert

Bashir Kasekende

Project Manager Uganda - CRAFT