Report Finds Support for Farmer Cooperatives (allAfrica.com)

More farmers are likely to sell their produce to cooperatives and farmer groups at competitive prices than to individuals, a report has found.

The report done by the East African Farmers’ Federation between April 2013 and April 2015 found that “co-operatives are an ideal business institution for farmers.”

Titled Farmer’s integration into regional markets through structured trade, the report said more farmers were also likely to transfer knowledge and practice new farming skills better when in cooperatives. The United States Agency [Usaid] for International Development funded the compilation of the report.

The study targeted 1,500 farmers, mainly producing maize and rice, from 30 farmer organisations, including cooperative societies in the three countries of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. They were helped in good harvest handling; post-harvest handling and professionalizing their own farm practices. The farmers were also exposed to opportunities through the business meetings, visits to the border points, among others.

“[These] activities changed their mindset and the quality of produce being delivered to the co-operative has increased. In addition, more farmers are becoming members of the cooperatives,” the report says.

The study said: “92 per cent of the farmers in the project reported that they sold more grains as a result of the project interventions. The results were markedly different for farmers who were members of co-operatives as opposed to those who were not.”

“97 per cent and 94 per cent of the farmers from Uganda and Tanzania respectively, compared to 81 per cent of the farmers from Kenya, reported that they sold more grain to their cooperatives. All the farmers in Uganda and Tanzania were members of cooperatives as opposed to the farmers from Kenya, who were members of community-based organizations and self-help groups,” the study added.

The project interventions, the study notes, resulted in 7,051 tonnes of grains being traded. These sales were both for maize and rice. The estimated value of these sales was $2m in one year.

The produce was mainly sold to cooperatives. Last week, Makerere University don Prof Julius Kiiza said Ugandan farmers needed to be in organized cooperatives to get real value from their sweat and consequently develop.

“Uganda must rebrand from pedestrian farming to transformative agriculture in which cooperatives as social enterprises control the full spectrum,” Kiiza told an agricultural transformation dialogue at Golf Course hotel in Kampala.

Most farmers in the region, and Uganda in particular, sell to middlemen, earning dismally from their produce. Cooperatives or farmer organisations can help them bargain for a better price for their harvest.