Hub agrodealers in Uganda are successful despite COVID-19 pandemic – The Case of Idatujje Farm Agency and Acila Enterprises Limited

21 Jul 2020

The situation

Uganda currently has 797 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 631 recoveries and no deaths. So far, seven frontline health workers have tested positive for COVID-19. This includes three nurses, two doctors and two senior-level staff members. All government ministerial staff are being tested because of their frequent movements throughout the country.

Public transport now in Uganda: passengers seated 1m apart from each other and wearing masks

During the President’s address concerning COVID-19, permitted public transport to resume operations after almost three months of being under lockdown. The Ministry of Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan Affairs were therefore tasked to develop guidelines for the safe opening of public transport in compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures developed in consultation with the Ministry of Health. From 29 May 2020, all public-service vehicles were assigned routes where they would be operating by the Kampala City Council Authorities. After this, they would then report to the Ministry of Works and Transport to obtain a temporary route chart valid until the 31st of December 2020. Public service vehicles have been given a six-month grace period to register and obtain all the correct documentation until which point they will not be permitted to operate. In addition, public-transport owners were to adopt modalities for the protection of public-transport workers during the pandemic. These included but were not limited to: checking people’s temperatures; operating at half capacity; each passenger service vehicle having hand-washing facilities available; and the wearing of masks being obligatory for all passengers. A vehicle found carrying passengers without masks would risk losing its public-service vehicle license.

Private cars were allowed to move as long as they did not carry more than four people. According to the president, food markets were to continue operating. Factories, hardware shops, garages, metal and wood shops and restaurants were allowed to open but cautioned about observing social distancing.

Bars, salons, gyms, churches and swimming pools remained closed since they could not observe the rules of social distancing. The 19h00 to 06h30 curfew implemented was to remain remained unchanged for another 21 days.

About Idatujje Farm Agency and Acila Enterprises Limited

Moses is the founder of Idatujje Farm Agency Limited, which started in 1985. It operates across six districts: Bugiri, Iganga, Mayuge, Kaliro, Kweeni and Butaleja. The hub-agrodealer agency sells agrochemicals, insecticides and farm equipment to farmers. Moses started the agency to bring services nearer to the farmers who travelled long distances from isolated villages to buy these products. Later on he noticed that the majority of farmers buying agrochemicals were against their use and so he embarked on a journey using demonstration farms to train farmers on the value of using agrochemicals (demo farms).

Farmers preparing their gardens (Idatujje Agency)

Demand-creation activities and AFAP intervention

Through the funding extended to cater for demand-creation activities by AFAP, Idhatujje Farm Agency established demonstration gardens and set up a seed-multiplying garden for rice. This was done through farmer groups. One farmer was selected from others in the group to host the demo farm. It was here that all training sessions for the other farmers in the group were held. Idhatujje continues to do this in four districts: Kween, Bugiri, Iganga and Namutumba.

Potted tomato Kilele F1 for Ochakolong

“Before farmers would complain about striga weed and poor soil but when they were trained on how to prepare their gardens, use the right amount and type of fertilizers, topdressing and insecticide spray, farmers have testified to an increase in yields,” Nathan an employee at Idatujje explains.

With AFAP’s support, Idatujje Farm Agency has so far trained 421 farmers despite COVID-19 and he reports that farmers have been able to appreciate the technology and the products used in the same way that Idhatujje Farm Agency does.

“This training has greatly contributed to changing the mindsets of farmers regarding agrochemical use. This is evidenced through the results, such as the increase in yields from the farmers trained,” Nathan further clarifies.

The harvested Kilele F1 demonstration site managed by Ochakolong (in the middle)

A university student’s proud enterprise in lockdown

Apart from farmers, Acila Enterprises engages women and youths through demand-creation activities. Ochakolong Esukaya, who is 23 years old, is one of the youth who has benefited from Acila Enterprises Ltd, which is one of the AFAP-supported hubs in Eastern Uganda.

Ochakolong Esukaya is a second-year agribusiness management student at Busitema University, Arapai campus. This campus was selected to be one of the two host farms for a demonstration garden that was set up in the university grounds during the long rains (February to May 2020).

Having been provided with 600 Kilele F1 tomato seedlings, his dedication and care resulted in a 95% germination rate. However, because of the community excitement, some farmers removed some of the plants from the garden.

Ochakalong registered a 96% germination rate for his tomatoes in the new half-acre site he set up. He learnt these skills during the COVID-19 pandemic with support from AFAP and Syngenta.

During his harvest in May, Ochalolong produced 1300kg from the garden, which amounted to 1,300,000 UGX, approximately USD 366 in a 40m x 20m plot. The proceeds are placed in the university treasury, while Ochakolong, meanwhile, prides himself on the skills and knowledge he obtained during the project. Because of the amazing yields from the demo garden, community members (the farmers) requested that Ochakolong provide them with seeds for planting. To date and with the help of Acila Enterprises Limited, he has sold 39 Sachets of Kilele F1, each costing 62,000 UGX, which totals 2,418,000 UGX, approximately 681 USD. He has been earning a commission of five hundred shillings per sachet sold, approximately 0.14 USD. This has helped him to survive during lockdown.

“I don’t regret staying back when other students went back home. These skills I am learning are not taught but learnt practically,” Ochakolong says.

While the rest of the students left school due to COVID-19, Ochakolong decided to stay behind, and hired land from the school at 50,000 per acre. He has so far set up two acres of pumpkins, two acres of maize and half an acre of the Kilele F1 tomato variety.