Sunday, 29 November 2009

Joining Forces to Support Ugandan Farmer Entrepreneurs

From 18-20 November I facilitated a multi-stakeholder workshop with Agri-ProFocus (APF) in Uganda. This is part of a process of focusing attention from a large number of Dutch NGOs and their local partners towards coordination of activities on Farmer Entrepreneurship. This APF 'country focus' process will continue for a number of years and I will support the facilitation of this process from Wageningen UR - Centre for Development Innovation. Similar processes are taking place in Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Niger and Mozambique.
More information:

(From press release...)
Agriculture is one of the key sectors of the Ugandan economy. Yet, evidence suggests that since 1997, the performance of the sector has not at all been optimal. Growth has been mixed while 70 % of Uganda’s population depend on agriculture for income and livelihood. Besides, with current population growth rates, food insecurity regularly hits 12 milion Ugandans.

To boost the sector a focus on farmer entrepreneurship is key. Challenges include: poor access and adoption of new technologies, inadequate marketing capacity, limited access to affordable finance, sub-optimal organisation framework for farmers, and inadequate infrastructure. HIV/AIDS, gender and youth issues, environment and climate change pose challenges to the development of the sector.

Dutch NGOs, finance agencies and knowledge institutes - united under Agri-ProFocus – are now joining hands to stimulate the enhancement of farmer entrepreneurship in Uganda. This initiative is led by SNV Uganda and supported by Wageningen University Centre for Development Innovation, Oxfam Novib, HIVOS, Cordaid, Oikocredit, Solidaridad, the Royal Tropical Institute, PUM, Heifer and Agriterra in addition to their local partners.

Agri-ProFocus stands for:
  • Agricultural producer organisations in developing countries are key to economic development and poverty reduction.
  • Promoting farmer entrepreneurship through cooperation, exchange and learning is the goal of our partnership.
  • Focus is on four themes: value chains, financial services, sustainable food production and gender.
Vibrant Kick Off Workshop
Through their partner networks Agri-ProFocus members have a fair level of presence on the development scene in Uganda. They are involved in areas such as financial services, food production, value chain and market access, knowledge and research, organisational and institutional development.
To develop a joint vision on how work together, Agri-ProFocus held a multi-stakeholder workshop at the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe. From 18 to 20 November close to 70 representatives from all over Uganda including, business development services, farmers organisations, researchers, NGOs and private sector representatives got together to come up with a clear strategy on:
- how to harmonise existing programmes;
- crucial joint activities to address gaps in the sector;
- ways for more continuous exchange and learning.

The event was opened by SNV Uganda and the Dutch Embassy and was supported from the government by Professor Otim, presidential advisor on Prosperity for All. Throughout the three days, a lot of active group work was combined with presentations from UNFFE, Pelum Uganda, Ssemwanga Group and CICS.

Perspectives on Farmer Entrepreneurship: some key quotes from the workshop

Beatrice Twayaga, ESAFF Kabale – Farmers on the ground do things as individuals (for me, my own and my family). How do they get focused?

Patrick Bakunda, Uganda Cooperative Alliance - All what we are talking about here, are Small Holder Farmers and one way or another we are saying they should come together to do collective marketing, finance etc. Why can’t we re-establish our cooperatives?

Mark van Esch, Shares - An important issue is the mentality of farmers. That it is a major problem for investors to continue investing. For example you can provide farmers with training, give them tools, guarantee to buy their produce etc. But if someone else passes by and offers them a slightly higher price, you lose that investment.

Deborah Mwesigye, Uganda Commodity Exchange- We need to focus our capacity building to individual farmers rather than the top level people in the producer groups

Dr. Ssemwanga, Ssemwanga Group – We need to get in people with the right attitude. Look for those that more ready to be farmer entrepreneur and you can tweak this. For the rest, the best policy is not to try and fit a round peg in a square hole.

Working towards Joint Victories
Rather than ending with a vague declaration, the final session ended with participants committeing to collaborate towards concrete outcomes. In a year from now the following ‘Victories’ are to be achieved:
- An integrated and harmonized market information system accessible for farmers;
- Improved accessibility of financial services to farmer organizations and other value chain actors;
- Identified best practice as regard building economically viable farmer’s organizations;
- Joint policy work to enhance agricultural policy in Uganda;
- Strengthened links between service provision and farming system development based on farmer led research.

Expectedly within these priorities a number of specific value chains will be targeted, such as coffee, dairy and food crops. Over the next months the Agri-ProFocus Uganda network will take off. Responsibilities are with small coalitions to take the lead on the above ‘Victories’ Participation in this network is open to all organizations which feel they have a relevant contribution to make towards the agenda for strengthening farmer entrepreneurship in Uganda.

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