Farmer-to-Farmer Supports the Local Private Sector to Establish Sustainable Food Systems in Uganda
The global food supply is provided by interconnected food systems that feed regions, countries, communities and families. These systems, regardless of size or what they produce, depend on a consistent supply of necessary inputs; however, the system fails if just one of these inputs is inconsistently available. With a rapidly changing climate, an increasing number of natural disasters and a continuously growing population, it has never been more critical than now to ensure global food systems grow and adapt into sustainable food systems that are dependable into the future.
In Uganda, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), through USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, provides technical assistance to develop the capacity of local organizations so they can be consistently more productive, profitable, sustainable and equitable, with an emphasis on livestock and agribusinesses. By building the capacity of agribusinesses, the interconnected food system on which communities depend has a better chance of improving, growing and becoming more sustainable.
One example is Farmer-to-Farmer's work with New Kakinga Millers (NKM) Enterprises Ltd, a privately owned maize milling business in Ishongororo, Ibanda district. The company started in 2006 as an informal maize processor but later registered as a company limited by shares in 2015. The company processes maize into maize flour for human consumption and maize bran for animal feed. NKM's products were initially sold locally and exported to Rwanda and Congo. However, the company is now focusing strictly on local markets and halted exports due to increased local demand.
NKM works with 11 farmers' cooperatives in Ibanda and neighboring districts in Western Uganda that, collectively, have more than 11,700 members. NKM works with the cooperatives to contract the advanced purchase of quality maize at 50-100 Ugandan shillings above the market price. By offering a premium, they can secure quality supply in advance. The contracts offer sellers an incentive to sell to NKM with the guarantee of a market for their maize. This is a win-win for businesses and families who can plan for the year ahead.
NKM’s business model depends on the consistent supply of maize. In addition to premium-priced contracts, NKM offers extension training to member farmers to encourage good agricultural practices, including post-harvest handling that will improve the quality of the maize supply. Despite the advanced purchase contracts and the investment in extension training, maize production remained inconsistent due to changing weather, soil degradation and outdated farming techniques. To ensure the future growth of the business, NKM asked Farmer-to-Farmer for technical guidance and training.
In February 2020, CRS, through Farmer-to-Farmer, recruited an American technical expert in climate-smart agriculture to train NKM's extension staff, village agents and supplying farmers. The volunteer shared knowledge about climate-smart agriculture with a particular focus on soil and water conservation techniques and the use of improved seeds, especially drought-resistant, early maturing and disease-resistant maize varieties. Farmers also learned about soil water conservation techniques and soil health management, such as intercropping, soil cover, composting and soil erosion control practices that improve farm productivity and increase resilience to climate shocks.
Since 2020, more than 2,800 farmers have been trained using these climate-smart practices, and NKM has benefited from a significant increase in the quality and quantity of the maize supplied by the farmers. As a result, NKM has increased daily production from 13 metric tonnes (MT) to 30 MT per day.
Lucky Edson, the founder and managing director (MD) of NKM, says, "After the Farmer–to–Farmer training, our farmers know the difference between poor quality maize and good quality maize. NKM as a company has benefited because we used to lose one ton per 10 tons in rejects on quality grounds, meaning that 1,000 kilograms would be lost, but now we are receiving good maize."
Lucky Edison, the founder and MD of NKM, discusses the improved maize quality he is seeing from local farmers after the post-harvest and climate-smart agriculture training provided by Farmer-to-Farmer . (Photo by Holly Powers/CRS)
Farmers say they are also benefiting from the climate-adaption techniques and post-harvest training with increased and higher quality yields and a reduction in post-harvest losses. This means farmers sell more of their harvest to NKM at higher-than-market rates. Higher profits mean farmers can grow their businesses.
Lawrence Rwabaingi, a member of Nkoma Area Cooperative, says, “Because my maize is of good quality, I have the New Kakinga Millers. So that is increased income. And because of that increased income, I can now every season get a cow for milk. So, I'm becoming also a dairy farmer.”
With support from Farmer-to-Farmer, NKM has helped local farmers increase maize quality and production, allowing them to better meet the needs of this food system.
With the support of Farmer-to-Farmer, NKM has established a strong collaborative network that integrates sustainable practices into its business model, fostering environmental, economic, and social well-being within its community. This network is contributing to the growth and sustainability of the local food system. In Uganda, and in other Farmer-to-Farmer country programs, CRS is committed to partnering with farmers, cooperatives and agribusinesses to support the cultivation of sustainable food systems that serve as scalable models for continued growth.