GULU –The 48-member Latyeng Farmers’ group in Gulu District has big plans and an even bigger appetite for loans.
First, the group wants to morph into a cooperative largely to attract big loans to expand its business portfolio.
The 48 group members grow rice, produce foundation seeds, pack and label rice. Last season, the group planted 115 acres of rice and harvested 160 tonnes.
Vicky Ocan, the group secretary, told theCooperator that Latyeng farmers’ group has organized 152 farmers into seven different groups.
“We have seven farmers’ groups each with about 30 to 40 farmers, who get rice seeds from us on credit and repay with an extra bag of rice after four months, as we link them to buyers,” she said.
Ocan said the small groups have not yet registered with Latyeng Farmers’ group.
“Although these farmers are not registered with our group, we give them regular training in rice-growing business. And as we plan to shift to a cooperative setting, we shall consider them first during registration of members,” Ocan said.
Ben Ocan, the Chairperson of Latyeng Farmers’ group, said they are still keenly studying the farmers to pick out the serious ones before they talk them into forming a cooperative.
Ocan believes a cooperative will help them get enough loans to buy machinery and other equipment to produce more rice and grow bigger.
“Right now we can only borrow Shs 50 million from the Microfinance Support Center. But we want to be able to borrow as much as Shs 300m so that we buy a big tractor for opening many acres of land and a lorry to transport our produce,” Ocan said.
The group, however, faces a string of rice milling and bagging challenges.
The group was given a Shs 98 million rice huller by the National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS, in 2017 but it has not been installed due to lack of power in the area.
The machine can hull 300 bags of rice daily. Ocan said their prayers for electricity in the area have not been answered.
He said farmers travel 10 kilometers to hull their rice expensively.
Ocan said they need about Shs 40 million to install a three-phase transformer to run the machine, or a generator of about Shs 100m, which the group cannot afford.
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