A man operates the newly installed plant at the Nyakatonzi warehouse. Copyright: WFP/Lydia Wamala
WFP has recently upgraded nine warehouse facilities in Uganda in a bid to improve market infrastructure for smallholder farmer groups. For Nyakatonzi, a co-operative based in the Rwenzori mountain ranges, big changes are afoot.
Kasese town is located in southwestern Uganda, near the Congolese border. During the day temperatures reach 38 degrees Centigrade, but that is nothing in this dusty downtown. Traders go about their business ferrying passenegers on bicycles that whizz past at great speed. Elsewhere, women in shops crammed full sell dresses and patterned skirts.
WFP’s place in all this lies deeper, in the Kasese outskirts. At one location, WFP has helped refurbish a 6,000 metric-ton capacity warehouse, the largest buyer of maize from smallholders. At another, Nyakatonzi’s, a WFP-contracted engineer makes final checks on a US$267,000-worth processing plant – provided on a cost-sharing basis.
From red and green switches to tiny automatic lights and a lift that moves the grain between cleaning apparatus, technology is everywhere. Massive metallic bins that can hold up to nine tons of grain – enabling its fumigation at the same time – tower over the warehouse.
Previously the cooperative dried maize for days outside in the sun before bringing it into the warehouse for cleaning using a small “seed cleaner”. For the 15,000 or so farmers this used to mean a wait of up to a month to get a decent grade of grain to sell.
“This is a transformation,” says Francis Mugisha, the 40-year-old warehouse keeper, “We have been processing three metric tons a day, now we handle about five an hour and now we get the finest quality. The farmers are happy.”
“We are moving forward,” Musigha adds. “Previously we over-depended on cotton. Now we can invest more in maize even to the point of milling it to add value.”
“WFP’s Purchase for Progress initiative builds on what the people have done for themselves already,” the Country Director Stanlake Samkange says. “Kasese has exhibited a lot of potential and capacity. We are investing in that potential and capacity so as to enable smallholders to access quality grain markets in the region, including WFP.”