By Andrew Masinde, New Vision/NECJOGHA
Ntungamo, Uganda- After grappling with the problem of food storage for many years, farmers in Kitembe village, Rweikiniro sub-county in Ntungamo district have a reason to smile. They are set to get improved storage facilities courtesy of a cost-sharing partnership with Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) programme in Uganda. Under the partnership, Kitembe Farmers Group and other farmer organisations will fund 25% of the storage facilities construction project.
Although Kitembe farmers group started in 2015 with six members, it was until 2017 that ISSD started training members on improved seed production and since then, membership has increased.
ISSD Uganda is A project implemented by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation in partnership with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) and is funded by the Embassy of the kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda.
Because of ISSD’S intervention, Kitembe Farmers Group has increased their bean seed production from one tonne to 25 tonnes. Currently, the seeds are stored in members’ homes, which compromise quality.
Julius Barugahare, the chairperson of Kitembe Farmers Group, says the quality of their seed used to be compromised, which would negatively affect their market.
Like Kitembe, Rwabaceneka Organic Farmers’ Group also faced the challenge of lack of storage facilities.
The group that started small today produces over 55 tonnes of seeds, but because of lack of storage facilities, the members resorted to using their houses, which affected the quality of their harvest.
John Karangwe, the chairperson of the group, says they were losing the market for their seed because of the poor storage facilities.
Patrick Oyee, the chief of party at ISSD, says: “After interacting with the farmers, it was discovered the farmers could not afford to pay for the construction of storage facilities. Instead, they were keeping seeds in group members’ homes. This made people not to buy their seeds.”
“Over 30 seed stores are under construction in various places and each store is estimated to cost shs 40m-50m. Eleven storage facilities are complete and the rest are nearing completion,”Oyee said.
At the premises of Nyabyumba Farmer Field School Group in Nyabyumba village, Kamuganguzi sub-county in kabala district, a new store is under construction.
Started in 1998 and with membership of 41, the group produces potato seed. Like other farmers, the group also faced the challenge of poor storage facilities.
With the construction of the new store, the group hopes to increase production of quality potato seed.
Oyee said after the completion of the 40 metric tonnes stores, farmers will be able to store their seeds in clean, pest-free and safe facilities. The stores will also help farmers to bulk seed and sell it from a central place.
While touring some of the stores under construction, Anno Galema, the secretary food security and private sector development at the Netherlands embassy, said seeds are an important starting point in agriculture.
He said if the seeds are of poor quality, then harvest will also be of poor and when the seeds are of high quality, the harvest will also be of high.
“Once the stores are complete, the quality of seed will improve. The Government should think of supporting the local seed producers by buying their products,” Galema said.
He urged farmers to use the stores well so that they produce quality seed. “Handle them with care because you know where you have come from,” Galema said.
Esther Atwine, the Ntungamo district agricultural officer, said although the quality of seed produced in southwestern Uganda has improved, the agricultural ministry ignores it because is not certified.
“We are constrained by the meagre resources. However, when the new stores are completed, the district will lobby the Government to consider buying seeds from local farmers,” she said.
Atwine said seeds produced by local farmers might be of better quality than those from big companies and urged the Government to revise the e-voucher system such that the local farmers’ seeds are also brought on board.