You are here: Home > News > Ugandan and Tanzanian cooperatives wage war on waste and poverty

Ugandan and Tanzanian cooperatives wage war on waste and poverty

07 July 2018

Ugandan and Tanzanian cooperatives wage war on waste and poverty

A change in market price or a spoiled harvest can pose an existential threat to the welfare of farming families.

Across the globe, millions of small-scale farmers have clubbed together to form agricultural cooperatives, where producers unite to grow, store and sell their produce collectively.

Today, 7 July 2018, marks the International Day of Cooperatives. Farm Africa’s FoodTrade project, funded by UK aid from the UK government, encapsulates the importance of this year’s theme, “sustainable consumption and production”. The project showcases how cooperatives can help their members farm and sell smarter in order to boost their profits and protect the environment.

War on waste

In partnership with the local NGO Rural Urban Development Initiatives (RUDI) and Belgian-based international NGO Rikolto, Farm Africa is working with local cooperatives in Uganda and Tanzania to help rice, maize and beans farmers store their crops in certified warehouses so that crops can be kept dry and are less susceptible to fungal infections and pest infestation, both common results of poor storage.

About one third of the food produced in the world every year is wasted. In developing countries, like Uganda and Tanzania, food waste typically occurs at the start of the supply chain: 40% of farmers’ losses in developing countries occur at post-harvest and processing levels.

Food waste takes its toll on the environment, meaning a waste of land, water and energy put into production, as well a loss of potential income for farmers.

Uniting to sell collectively

Providing farmers with a safe place to store their crops not only protects harvests and reduces agriculture’s environmental footprint but, safe in the knowledge that their food won’t rot or be eaten by pests, farmers can now choose when to sell their grain.

The project has helped workers at 85 warehouses in Uganda and Tanzania gain access to market information and training in business skills, to help them decide when to sell and at what price. By selling collectively at the right time, farmers can earn more for their agricultural efforts.

“If you sell individually, it is not good. If you sell collectively, you get a bigger market. The price is good because the buyer gets a bigger volume at the same time," commented Frida Elisante Sarakikya, a farmer working with Farm Africa and Rikolto in northern Tanzania.

Unlocking finance

Many small-scale farmers are unable to access loans to develop their businesses. The FoodTrade project helps cooperatives turn harvests waiting to be sold into collateral so that they can gain access to credit to invest in their businesses.

In Mbeya in southern Tanzania, Mbuyuni Farmers’ Association attracted a consortium of buyers, input suppliers and banks who signed a tripartite agreement allowing the farmers to use aggregated crops in warehouses as loan guarantees to access finance and inputs on credit.

Yara International, an international input supplier, agreed to supply fertilisers on credit, which the farmers would pay back after receiving the revenue from the sale of their crops.

The National Microfinance Bank committed to lend one billion Tanzanians shillings (about £316,000) to the farmers who had a sales agreement with a buyer to buy a milling machine. This will allow 1,316 member farmers to add value to their unprocessed rice by milling it into clean rice, which sells for a higher price. 

Strength in numbers

When producers join together to aggregate their crops and sell in bulk from one central location they are in a better position to attract high-value buyers and penetrate new markets, and consequently earn a higher income.