GULU-Farmers in Acholi Sub-region have been urged to concentrate on food crop production if they are to fight household poverty. This follows persistent price fluctuations for cash crops such as cotton, soybean, and sunflower among others.
Currently, the price of cotton ranges from Shs 2,000 to Shs 2,500 per kilogramme [kg] while soybean prices range from Shs 1,000 to Shs 1,500 per kg in several districts of Acholi Sub-region.
Already farmers in several parts of the Acholi region have started crying foul play, saying the prices are dropping, leaving them with huge losses.
Francis Ojok, a resident and farmer of Pagak, in Lamogi Sub-county, Amuru district says at the beginning of the planting season, they were told the price of cotton would be at Shs 3,500 per kg, but this has since dropped to between Shs 1,800 and Shs 2000 per kg.
Ojok said with the promise and hope that the prices will not change, many of them opted to plant more cotton compared to other crops.
“Having been convinced that this time, even if the prices drop, it will not drop below Shs 2,500 per kg, I planted six acres of cotton with the hope that I will get more money.”
Susan Lalam, another cotton farmer in Cwero, Gulu district said she hoped to earn Shs 10 million from eight acres of cotton she planted at the beginning of the season but now expects to earn Shs 5mln due to the fall in the price of the crop, even though she said she invested Shs 5mln.
Christopher Opio Ateker, the Gulu district LCV Chairperson said he has received concerns about a looming famine in several parts of the district since many people opted to plant cash crops more than food crops.
Ateker said farmers, if they concentrate more on planting food crops on a large scale, can sell the surplus to meet the financial needs of their respective families.
“The market for crops will always be there and if it is not bought, you eat, unlike crops like cotton that you can`t eat,” Ateker said.
According to Ateker said they are working with non-governmental organisations promoting the growing of cash crops to ensure that project beneficiaries also plant at least three acres of food crops.
“We have had scenarios where organisations come, rally people into planting cash crops promising to provide a market, and yet at the end of the day, the organisations either disappear or buy at very low prices, leaving our people with huge losses and hunger-stricken,” Ateker said.
Michael Lakony, the Amuru district LCV Chairperson said the district executive last year passed a resolution to make it mandatory for every family to have food crop gardens. This, he said has played a huge role in fighting food insecurity at the household level.
Lakony said that they are also rallying farmers to form cooperatives in order to evade the exploitation by the middlemen while selling their farm produce.
“By forming cooperatives, farmers are able to bargain directly with the buyer instead of dealing with middlemen. This means farmers can reap from their garden work,” Lakony said.
Since colonial times, cotton was the major cash crop grown in the Acholi Sub-region, with primary cooperative societies being at the forefront of the business, even though political instabilities would later destroy the cooperatives, leaving each farmer to survive on their own.
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