SOROTI – The government through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has injected Shs 408, 293,723 for the construction of post-harvest storage and value addition facilities in Soroti district.
The construction of post-harvest, storage and value addition infrastructure is being done under the Agricultural Cluster Development Program (ACDP) meant to support farmers undertaking bulking, value addition and collective marketing of quality produce for better prices and thus realize better incomes.
It’s being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries with support from the World Bank in 57 selected districts.
The project also supports participating districts to make improvements on existing farm access roads so as to eliminate key choke points that impede the flow of farm inputs and produce from production centers to storage or value addition centers and markets.
Soroti district is under cluster five (5) which includes the districts of Kumi, Serere and Soroti.
Abraham Ekwaru, the district Communications Officer said, ACDP is specifically targeting organised farmer groups and cooperatives which aggregate farmer produce and carry out common marketing.
He told theCooperator that the project is supporting three farmers cooperatives in the district.
The cooperatives include; Amoru-Amoroto Multipurpose Cooperative Society SACCO in Awaliwali sub-county, Awoja Rural Producer Organisation in Aukot sub-county and Community Link for Development from Arapai sub-county.
According to Ekwaru, the construction sites for three storage facilities have already been handed over to respective contractors and they are expected to commence the construction works very soon.
The construction of a storage facility for Awoja Rural Producer Organisation was awarded to Frahah Amuria Enterprise Ltd at a cost of Shs104, 626,860.
Junior Holdings Uganda Ltd was awarded the contract for a storage house for Community Link for Development Organisation storage facility at Shs103, 994,399; while the construction of Amoru-Amoroto Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd’s storage facility is awarded to Sure Friends Civil and Agro Input Consultant Ltd at a cost of Shs92, 505,320.
The Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries has already disbursed this money to the bank accounts of the benefiting farmer cooperatives.
Ekwaru told theCooperator that the post-handling facilities are particularly targeting cassava and rice which are two major traditional cereal crops grown by the farmers under the three cooperatives.
“The storage facilities once completed are projected to store about 220, 250 and 300 metric tons of produce respectively,” said Ekwaru.
According to him, the facilities will act as a motivating factor for farmers to increase the production of cassava and rice in their respective cooperatives.
Ekwaru added that the storage facilities will also have post-handling and value addition equipment and this will help improve the quality of cassava flour and rice.
Rose Tino, who is the Chairperson, Works Committee Soroti district cautioned the beneficiaries against misusing the funds but to instead use them for the intended purpose.
She explained that as district leaders, they shall not tolerate any abuse of these funds by the grant beneficiaries.
Tino also warned contractors undertaking the construction works against doing shoddy work.
“As a district we want contractors to do quality work. Our technical teams from the district and the sub-counties will always carry out routine monitoring of the construction works to ensure that there is value for money in the works executed,” she added.
According to her, contractors must carry out their work professionally while ensuring quality and complete them in the set time frame or face termination of their contracts.
David Odeke, the Chairperson Amoru-Amoroto Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd is grateful to the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) for supporting them with a post-harvest handling facility.
He said that the construction of the storage facilities for organised farmers in the district has been long overdue.
“We have been trying to lobby from the district and NGOs to construct for us a storage facility for our cooperative in vain, but I’m happy that God has finally answered our prayer, a reason I’m extremely happy,” said Odeke.
He further encouraged farmers to embrace growing cassava in a large scale so as to enhance their income.
Sharon Mary Anyait, the Councilor representing Awoja parish at Aukot sub-county and a member of Awoja Rural Producer Organisation is optimistic that this facility will become a marketing center where the sorting, grading, cleaning and bagging will be best done.”
She added that with the storage facility in place, farmers would now be able to hold out for good prices for their produce, which would mean improved incomes.
Meanwhile, Enyaku James Michael, the Soroti district Production Officer, urged farmers in rural areas to embrace availability of grants and other micro projects under the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) in order to move from subsistence to commercial farming.
He said farmers should change their mindset from farming for “the stomach” to farming for “the pocket.”
‘Although ACDP funds have been disbursed to community farmer organizations for the implementation of matching grants in all the 12 clusters, the farmers are still hesitant to embrace the project despite numerous sensitisations,” Enyaku said.
How Agricultural Cluster Development Program (ACDP) Works.
Through ACDP, registered farmers are enabled to access critical farm inputs and equipment for post-harvest handling at subsidised costs met using E-Voucher management system that links registered farmers to pre-qualified, certified agro-input dealers.
Through the subsidy, farmers acquire inputs in a manner that allows them to utilise them effectively with commitment.
In the first season, the farmer contributes 33% of the cost of inputs and the 67% is provided by the government while in the second season, the farmer contributes 50% which attracts a 50% contribution by the government.
In the third season, the farmer makes a 67% contribution while the government contributes 33%.
By the fourth season, with training in best practices of agriculture and agribusiness enterprise management as well as enhanced access to markets, the farmer is expected to be in position to run a self-sustaining enterprise.
However, on ground investigations by theCooperator indicate that the farmers are finding it challenging to transit from one cycle to the next due to limited information on the best practices of the ACDP project.
This slow transition according to them affects the attainment of the project development objective.
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