Hoima Farmers Struggle to Sustain Food Supply to Tullow

4888 Views Hoima, Uganda

In short
Farmers in Hoima are struggling to sustain the supply of produce to Tullow Uganda’s field camps, as they try to meet the required standards.

Farmers in Hoima are struggling to sustain the supply of produce to Tullow Uganda’s field camps, as they try to meet the required standards.

The Mairirwe Farmers’ Cooperation grow rice, maize, beans, sweet potatoes and cabbages among others, though rice is their niche crop. Before the arrangement to supply food to Tullow started in July 2012, the farmers grew different varieties of rice such as Nerica-1, Nerica-4 and Nerica-10, which they processed and marketed together.

The Seeds-Loan Scheme which the farmers use to get seed for the next season resulted in all the rice varieties mixing up, yet Tullow requires that the rice is sorted and each variety supplied separately.

Fred Asaba, one of the farmers, says that the group would need a rice-grading machine, to process wholesome, sorted rice.

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Asaba was one of the first farmers in his group to supply rice, starting with 150 kilograms at the start of the program in July. The rice was accepted, but with recommendations to improve the sorting, grading and packaging. He has also been able to supply 120 cabbages and 100 kilograms of sweet potatoes.

According to David Byaruhanga, the group’s Community-based Facilitator, the first three months of the program are a pilot period, after which they will sign an agreement with Tullow, but only if they meet all the standards required.

Tullow requires that the rice supplied has no broken and un-milled grains and is stone-free. As a measure to improve the quality of their produce, the group in Mairirwe has started a scheme to loan out Tarpaulins to its members, where the rice can be hulled.

Byaruhanga adds that one of their members planted two acres of Nerica-1, carefully sorted, which the group will use to multiply the variety amongst the members. August is rice planting time for the second season of the year, and some of the members’ rice is about 10 inches tall.

The farmers in Mairirwe, a group of 400, are part of Hoima District Farmers’ Association (HODIFA), a 5000-member organization.

Amidst the struggle to meet the standards set by Tullow, the farmers also face high production costs, which may hamper the sustainability of the produce supply program. Beatrice Nsungwa says that the costs of hiring tractors sometimes make it hard to plough enough acreage.

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Despite the challenges, the farmers say that they are getting a better price for their produce. They previously sold their rice in Hoima town, Kampala and South Sudan. A bag of rice would sell for between 120,000 and 150,000 Uganda Shillings, but Tullow offers 200,000 shillings per bag.

According to Cathy Adengo, the Tullow Uganda Corporate Communications Manager, the staff in the camps consumes about 500 kilograms of rice per week and the farmers are able to supply all this at the moment.

The recently-established TraidLinks Enterprise Centre at Hoima Catholic Diocese might also help the farmers deal with the issue of standards. TraidLinks is an Irish NGO that entered a partnership with Tullow to establish the centre. The centre, hosted and managed by Caritas Hoima, has storage space for grains, as well as a cold-storage facility for preserving fresh foods like vegetables.

Fr. Joseph Birungi, the Caritas Hoima Executive Director, says that the centre enables even those farmer groups which don’t have stores to bring in their produce, and boost the volumes.

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The centre also will offer training to the HODIFA members, on the standards set by the oil company, to ensure that the program for supplying produce lasts.

The National Participation in the Oil and Gas Industry 2011 study views agriculture as a sector in which Uganda has an advantage, for citizens to benefit from the oil industry.