Farmers in Post War Northern Uganda Minting Cash From South Sudan Market

August 17, 2014 11:11 am0 comments by:
Alex Komakech showing the news  the reporter his groundnut garden

Alex Komakech showing the news the reporter his groundnut garden

By Gloria Laker Aciro

Jackline Lanyero -is a young Groundnuts and Cassava grower in Anaka Sub County in Nwoya district. She is one of the few lucky farmers whose farm produce is sold directly to consumers in Southern Sudan.

As a small scale farmer she joined groups of farmers who after harvesting their food and parking, they jointly hire trucks which transport to Nimule and Juba.

“Working with farmers groups opened for me the door to the Sudan market avoiding the middle men ‘Awaro’ since I sell my groundnuts and cassava direct to the consumers doubling my profit since we share transport cost” Lanyero.

Acholi farmers in Northern Uganda are slowly coming out of the two decades Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency and today the region is relatively stable, secure and peaceful for farmers like Jackline to embark on Agricultural production.

Relative peace returned to the region following the   2006 Juba Peace talks and the intervention by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which led to the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CHA).

Over the years, Acholi were known for their heavy production of the two crops-cassava and groundnuts but this halted during the war.

Groundnuts are important source of protein and a raw material for edible oil and in Acholi it is a delicacy making it a must have for an average income family.

Reporter Gloria Laker explains that one of the ways Acholi eat groundnuts is by first popping out the seeds and eating it as snack before or after roasting with salt.

According to her it can also be boiled with salt. One can also pound the fresh groundnuts seeds and mix it with vegetables to prepare a nice healthy meal locally known as ‘lacakacaka. Another form is making paste known as Odii.

According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics Northern Uganda has been producing atleast 36,000 tonnes of groundnuts in the past five years.

Pabbo LC3 Chairman Ojera Christopher says with the return of peace, production has increased in every home and farmers have 5 to 6 hectares of groundnuts for consumption and commercial use “more and more Acholi farmers are investing in groundnut production as the demand for it is getting bigger daily”. He explained.

On the other hand, Cassava farming in Acholi is known for its value chain and a potential avenue for community engagement in entrepreneurship in the post-war Northern Uganda.

High quality cassava flour is used in bakeries, paint manufacturing as well as in the pharmaceutical industries.

Before the war, Acholi was Uganda’s food basket including neighbouring countries, and with current peace, the situation is rapidly returning, as there is an increase in Groundnuts and Cassava growing with a ready market in Southern Sudan.

Farmer groups and the UN world Food Program have established 16 Cassava processing machines.

“Because of that they are able to process fresh cassava into flour which has a very high market in Sudan, and locally consumed as bread made from the cassava.” Says Ojera. Much of the cassava flour is sold in West Nile region with a bag going for 200,000 Uganda shillings, mainly exported to DR Congo.

“Farmers in Amuru have embraced Cassava and Ground nuts growing beside rice. Today ,there is a big market for cassava in Westnile region and a bag goes for 200,000 Uganda shillings an opportunity for farmers with low capital as they realize they can make more money by farming than in white collar jobs. At the same time creating more jobs for locals especially during harvest” Ojera

Ojera said this has led to increase in the personal finance of individuals in Acholi.Peter Okello, a youth farmer from Pagak in Amuru focused on small scale and always makes good harvest. “I use Ox- plaugh for digging and i am also in a youth group so when things are hard we till our land in shifts”, he says. Okello

Alex Komakech alias docor is a successful groundnut and cassava farmer in Labora- Gulu district of Northern Uganda.

The youthful farmer is among the many residents of Northern Uganda who are struggling to regain their living after several years of staying in Internally Displaced people’s camps.

“My original home was a complete jungle, so one big challenge I and my siblings have been clearing the bushes to open land for settlement and cultivation. Since we started planting our main crops-groundnuts and Cassava, life started getting better” said Komakech a father of seven

From his Groundnuts sells of last year, Alex managed to buy a motorbike for quick movement.

This year, Alex has doubled his production to five hectares. “In my five hectares,  I have planted cassava and groundnuts in one garden meaning I will remove groundnuts and leave cassava to grow, and this is how we plant the two crops here, it is beneficial in terms of weeding time, the cassava grows very fast because of the fertile land created by groundnuts pods” Komakech explained.

Despite his achievements, Komakech is facing challenges such as, disease which reduce the growth of groundnuts. Climate change has also affected his crop production.

Last year he lost the whole farm to a dry spell. And one biggest problem is transport cost which is very high in addition to lack of nearby stores and as a result they are not able to utilize proper market.

Komakech urges government to introduce exchange programs for small scale farmers to expose them to learning from each other.

A happy couple Santo Obina and Evelyn Obitna of  Wanglobo village in Koro  Lapanat have a reason to smile this year as they harvest their groundnuts and cassava. The Obinas are very successful farmers in Koro Gulu district.

Last year, Obina was awarded for his support for women and fighting domestic violence in homes and as a role model, he has been  code named Lacor Makwiri ‘ responsible man’ “He weeds and harvest with me, we dry together and when it is time to market our goods, we still go together” Remarks Evelyn Obitna

This year, the 36 year old Obina planted only two hectares of groundnuts for fear of losing it to climate change. As he explains, last year Obina lost 6 hectors of groundnuts in the March May dry spell which hit most parts of Acholi

“I decided plant little in the first planting season because I was scared of a repeat of last year’s dry spell where I lost all to drought, but I’ am hoping to plant more during the August season” says Obina

Obina still finds it hard in terms of hiring ox ploughs because the available ones are too expensive for farmers costing 80,000 shillings an equivalent of about US$34 per hectare.

The market for his crops is also far away from the farms making transport cost very high. He said he also experiences minimal support towards labor harvest. “I work with my wife doing everything which is very unhealthy when she is expecting, she cannot do much in the garden, leaving all the work to me” Says Obina.

From their small scale farming, the Obinas reserve some for consumption and sells the largest amount and the income used to open more gardens, buy seeds and plant more crops and also paying for the farm labour. But above all, the Obinas top priority is providing basic needs for their children.

“ I pay my kids in school and take them for regular medical check up to ensure they are in good health, because when they fall sick our work stalls too” Says Obina.

To farmers, one big fight they are left with is the elimination of the middlemen locally known as ‘Awaro ‘who they say exploit farmers by buying at a low cost and doubling their profits.

“Awaro-exploit farmers because of lack of market and high transport cost, we are not able to sell food to Gulu town directly to the consumer” says Obina.

The chairperson Gulu district farmers association, Hellen Kilama confirmed that Awaro are taking advantage of farmers, saying the association is making sure that local farmers work close to support each other by building stores for food,and selling collectively.

“It is a fact that farmers are being exploited because they lack acces to market because of high transport cost and are not engaging in value addition of their produce.” Noted Kilama

She appealed to women farmers to come as a team and start packaging their goods and agree on a fixed price so that they are not exploited by the middlemen.

The association has a total of 3,400,000 members and each farmer puts in 1,000 shillings per year. Kilama sadly revealed that several farmer groups sold off the Ox-ploughs given to them by Gulu farmers association.

“It is sad to note that in Gulu alone, Over 25 groups sold their ox-ploughs due to poverty and they have now resorted to using hand held hoes for digging” explained Kilama

She said Sudan market is generating more money to cassava farmers. She appealed to authorities to ensure that more stores are built for farmers to store the produce.

“The few stores we have are miles away from farmers, so we are calling for more stores in the communities with large population” Kilama said.

Kilama said Acholi land is so fertile that any crop planted yields good results because when people were in IDP camps the lands was not being used and as a result, it became very fertile.

“The land fertility is due to that fact that it was not used for over20 years and in some areas people just plant and remove few small weeds until harvest time” Kilama noted.

Nwoya is one of the youngest Acholi districts and growing at a high rate compared to Amuru. In terms of food production, in the early days of the return, families here used to eat once a day but now they eat three times a day.

Nwoya LC5 Chairman, Patrick Okello Oryema says groundnuts and cassava are grown on small and large scale and on average every family is having about 4 gardens/hectors according to his production committee outreach report.

He however expressed disappointment over poor saving culture where farmers harvest and sell everything, while others drink heavily or marry more woman, while some spend all money on funeral rites, leaving no food in granaries, not even for seeds..

“As a district, we are encouraging farmers to form groups and store their crops and sell at the right time and we have four stores here in Nwoya built by partners to support farmers” Patrick Oryema

However, despite the increasing demand for food in the Sudan and Congo markets, for both crops, only a small percentage of small scale farmers are able to tap in to the market as it requires big capital in terms of money and transport, making it hard for the farmers with very low income to access it and grow.

Other challenges include lack of capital for women to engage in profitable farming. Climate change is also hindering crop growing in some seasons because it is unpredictable.

As a way to overcome these challenges, Amuru district for instance, a program to boost and encourage women in farming has been initiated in Pabbo Sub County under local government.

Funds given out during farmers and women’s day celebrations are donated to successful women farmers and according to Ojera, Pabbo youth often use the money to buys goats and donate to women as an encouragement.

“Youth here decided not to spend their money on celebrations and instead it is offered to the best women farmers as a way of uplifting women” Ojera adding that on the last women’s day celebration youth gave eight goats to hard working women.

Still in Amuru, there are groups of youth who dig at night using solar lights.

One big tool in the recovery of farming and overcoming the above challenges in Acholi is the roles FM radio are playing in disseminating vital information to citizens

To this effect, The Food and Agricultural Organization FAO under its Food Security and Agricultural Livelihoods project, has gone ahead to produce and translate weather forecast in to  Luo and is being aired on local radio stations and According to  Ojera  it is helping farmers a lot.

“Our farmers are up-to-date, they even know when to start ploughing and planting as they follow these on FM radios thanks to FAO livelihood project” Ojera.

As FAO concludes this project, farmers had the opportunity for learning, formalization and benefitting from the establishment of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) network which to a small scale farmer like Alex Komakech, it created a good foundation for their recovery and growing of selected crops.

The increase in Groundnuts production has also led to increase in small business Groundnuts factories in Acholi and as Godfrey Binaisa Opiro who deals in selling groundnut paste, explains that the higher the production, the cheaper the price for their raw material.

He says during harvesting season like now, they buy fresh ground nuts directly from farmers and turn the groundnuts into Odii (paste).

Opiro has registered his odii business as assurance international. He makes close to 300,000 Uganda shillings per week towards school term opening.

”I began my Odii business in 2011 and daily I grind about 50kgs and on a good period when children are returning to school, I make on average 300,000 shillings a week from my Odii business, thanks to increase Groundnuts farming” Opiro.

Opiro has created jobs for five youths in his project and he pays them monthly from the rroundnuts/Odii sales. He said the youth help him with the packaging and selling of the odii.


Gloria Laker Aciro is a former war reporter, having covered the Lord’s Resistance Army conflicts in Northern Uganda for the New Vision and Capital Radio. Today, she heads the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa. Currently, she is reporting on the Post-War recovery and development of Northern Uganda


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