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Training unlocks smallholders' access to regional markets

23 March 2017

Training unlocks smallholders' access to regional markets

[Uganda] The improved storage and aggregation of staple crops were on the agenda at recent training sessions organised by Farm Africa for 40 agricultural extension and 38 warehouse workers in Uganda.  Effective post-harvest handling of crops is vital in cutting losses and maximising the volume of crops that smallholder farmers are able to sell.

The training is an important milestone in Farm Africa’s Regional trade of staple foods project which is funded by UK aid. The project helps rice, maize and beans farmers in Uganda and Tanzania to sell more produce for higher prices to markets across eastern Africa.

Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian governments have recently eased restrictions on the trade of staple crops across common borders. The promotion of trade within eastern Africa is a significant step towards tackling stubborn levels of poverty and malnutrition in the region.

The training will provide local communities with the tools and knowledge they need to access important regional markets.

Rachel Beckett, Farm Africa’s Country Representative, Uganda

While Tanzania and Uganda usually produce a surplus of staple foods, Kenya only grows enough to feed itself one year in every five. Relaxed trading barriers present an opportunity for Tanzanian and Ugandan smallholders to access lucrative Kenyan markets. However, practical challenges often prevent smallholders from capitalising upon new markets.

Poorly managed storage and aggregation systems as well as inefficient post-harvest handling practices are a major challenge to smallholders looking to penetrate new markets. Farm Africa’s recent training sessions equipped community-led agricultural cooperatives with the skills and resources to safely store their produce, a necessity for farmers looking to bring their crops to market for a good price.

“The training will provide local communities with the tools and knowledge they need to access important regional markets.” says Rachel Beckett Farm Africa’s Country Representative, Uganda. “This will allow some of Uganda’s most vulnerable rural communities to rise out of poverty, move beyond subsistence farming and build up their resilience to climate extremes.”

Extending good agricultural practice

The Ugandan National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) delivered a training session, monitored by Farm Africa, for extension workers, developing their skills to train trainers and smallholders in the effective harvesting and handling of staple crops, including the drying, grading and treatment of beans, maize and rice.

The training kick-started a process that will ultimately see over 25,000 farmers in Teso sub-region trained in new post-harvest handling techniques. The trained extension officers will share their newfound knowledge with 400 trainers of trainers, who will then go on to train roughly 63 farmers each.

Boosting produce preservation

Warehouses play a vital role in ensuring that increases in production actually reach the market, allowing farmers to be financially rewarded for their hard work and boosting food security for those who rely on their produce.

Farm Africa worked in partnership with the East African Grain Council to deliver in-depth training to warehouse managers on effective crop storage, ranging from weighing produce, improving the drying process and controlling the moisture content of crops.

Well-run warehouses unlock a wide range of benefits for smallholder farmers. Efficient aggregation, extended shelf life and improved crop quality play a crucial role in helping smallholder farmers make the jump to commercial agriculture.

Combining to improve efficiency and profitability

These two training courses will allow some of Uganda’s poorest farmers to capitalise upon eastern Africa’s changing trade landscape, arming farmers with the expertise and resources to access new markets as well as to ensure a sustainable supply of food production to a region that continues to suffer from food insecurity.

While two consecutive seasons with low rainfall have forced Uganda to employ short-term measures to reduce the export of staple crops, Farm Africa is working to ensure that farmers are able to take advantage of the upcoming growing season, which forecasts predict should lead to a surplus of staple crops.

Farm Africa’s regional trade of staple foods project is funded by UK aid from the UK government.