Pay-offs from Paddy
Rice farmers in Eastern Uganda are expanding production and profits, thanks to technologies and market linkages through the Netherlands-funded CATALIST-Uganda project.
Improved rice technologies
More than 6,000 farmers (45 percent women) in Iganga and Namatunda districts grow rice for the market. CATALIST-Uganda, working with the local administration and community leaders, has helped scale out improved production technologies and organize and train farmer groups who now purchase and sell collectively. Yields have increased from 8-10 bags to 20-30 bags per acre.
Previously, rice was not widely grown in these districts. Constraints included waterlogging, use of traditional varieties, direct seeding rather than transplanting, poor weed control and traditional practices (e.g., broadcasting seeds). Project interventions were designed to address each of these issues.
- Water logging was controlled with bunds.
- New high-yielding varieties were introduced, doubling or tripling yields.
- Training on nursery management has reduced seed wastage, increased germination from 50 to 60 percent to greater than 90 percent.
- Almost every farmer has switched from broadcasting to row planting, resulting in better growth and more effective weed control.
Farmers have been linked to agro-dealers, microfinance providers and buyers, and supported to form savings groups (VLSAs). Training has been provided on nursery establishment, GAP, water management, fertilizer and herbicide application, post-harvest management and other areas. Farmers have invested in crop protection (sprayers, herbicides) and are beginning to invest in irrigation pumps.
Field trials began in 2013 with 50 farmer groups and now involve over 500 groups, each with 25-30 farmers. Demonstrations include improved seed varieties (sourced from national research center through project linkages), nursery management, fertilizer application (including FDP) and water management (bunds to prevent waterlogging, channels to distribute water equally).
Farmers have been linked to a private sector agro-input supplier, which, with project support, also provides free extension services. These linkages – and growing sales – have encouraged the company to quadruple its staff to 20 full-time extension officers (Diploma holders).
Project partners include several agro-dealers and small-and-medium scale rice processors that provide a range of agricultural inputs and a guaranteed market for rice. For example, Eastern Rice has purchased 1,000 tons of rice from 12 CATALIST clusters in Tororo district. The company offers, free of charge, extension services and a drying yard (few farmers have secure, hygienic drying areas and are therefore forced to accept low prices for moist grain). It also offers storage facilities at affordable rates, enabling farmers to delay sales until prices improve.
Farmers selling to Eastern Rice also receive bank credit under an innovative tripartite agreement. Legally registered farmer groups are linked to DFCU Bank, which provides loans for input purchases. The loans are informally ‘guaranteed’ by Eastern Rice, which deducts from farmer payments and repays the bank directly.
CATALIST training has enabled 12 farmer groups in Tororo district to not only improve yields and profits, but also to form savings associations and access loans. Members of the community-based organization SWODEPRO have increased yields four-to-five fold. After last season’s harvest, the group was able to access a group loan for bulk input purchases ahead of the 2015 planting season. (Project staff provided training and assistance with loan proposals.)
“We were selling individually, not collectively. We sold in small quantities, in basins and sacks – and transport costs ate into our profits. All that has changed. Now we sell as a group and get much better prices. We know how many kilograms we have, and how much we can expect to make. And we spend less on transport because IFDC has linked us to a buyer nearby.” –SWODEPRO Chairwoman Rose Akello
Project grants have helped upgrade or rehabilitate road and irrigation infrastructure in an area with high production potential. Each grant was preceded by due diligence studies to examine the potential impacts, the level of investment needed and the ability of the recipient community and local authorities to maintain the new infrastructure.
- A new gravel road, 4.6 km long, was inaugurated in May 2015 by one of Africa’s top diplomats: H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture. The road will reduce farmers’ transport costs by an estimated 80 percent.
- The existing irrigation system has been unable to control waterlogging or to ensure effective distribution of water from the Manafa River. CATALIST funded the construction of 22 manually operated gates to control water flow.
In both cases, the district agricultural office has taken responsibility for maintenance and has included the costs in its 2015 budget.