Help us scale our white sorghum project in Kamuli & Buyende, eastern Uganda. 

Uganda is the epitome of Sub Saharan African poverty. Eastern Uganda, meanwhile, is Uganda’s most impoverished part. Our region Kamuli & Buyende, on the other hand, is the poorest in eastern Uganda. And today, people’s livelihoods are harder than ever.

First, there is the economic hardship arising from the pandemic. Second, in the two planting seasons of 2021 (March – July & August – Dec), there was almost no rain. In each of these two seasons, it rained for not more than 4 weeks, then stopped before people’s crops had reached flowering stage. In our village of Namisita, where the UCF is based, even those farmers who planted up to 4 acres of maize, failed to get 20 kg.

Luckily, in the first planting season of 2022 (March – July), rains have been constant; people’s crops are doing really well this time, and every village you visit is very green. But because farmers have not yet harvested the crops that they planted in this year’s first planting season, yet most farmers did not harvest anything in 2021, the famine in Kamuli & Buyende right now as we speak (in June 2022), is intense. Most households are going without a single meal, yet many do not have any income source whatsoever.

In addition:

Food prices, and the prices of all other essential household commodities, have more than trippled over the past few months, in part due to the Ukraine crisis, high taxes in Uganda, and also due to the overall food shortage in our region right now, making life for the already employment-constrained rural poor households even more unbearable.

Help us change this:

Help the UCF create a lifeline for the poorest rural smallholder farmers in Kamuli and Buyende districts, in eastern Uganda, through income generation from white sorghum.

Please see details below. But first, here are a few photos of those farmers who have taken part in our sorghum project in the first planting season (March – July) of 2022.

 

About this project

Our white sorghum project aims to move the poorest rural smallholder farmers in eastern Uganda from extreme poverty, through income generation from sorghum.

 

About Kamuli & Buyende:

Kamuli & Buyende are two neighboring districts, formerly a single district until 2009. Together, the two districts make up 3,300 sq km, and have a total population of close to a million people, and over 160,000 households. Basically, Kamuli & Buyende is the crème de la crème of ultra poverty in eastern Uganda, and it is that place where it is very, very hard to find anything that is happening to end extreme poverty.

 

About the UCF:

The Uganda Community Farm, or the UCF, is a nonprofit social enterprise situated on 12 acres in Namisita, a village in Kamuli, eastern Uganda. Our goal is to place the rural poor in the remotest areas of eastern Uganda on a self sustainable path from poverty.

 

Our business model:

We identify a specific crop that has a high market potential, and grow it ourselves at the UCF. We then train many other rural farmers on the same crop, and provide them with initial inputs. From here, we build market linkages for our collective produce. And at present, the only crop for which we can find a reliable market is white sorghum.

Moreover, white sorghum is also one of those crops that require very little rains once it germinates, and is therefore very ideal for the increasing droughts in our region.

At harvest, gathering our farmers’ produce and getting it to our buyers is also the work of the UCF. We have already engaged Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL), as the prospective buyer of our sorghum. But because the quality (and quantity) of our farmers’ sorghum isn’t yet sufficient, we have not yet started suppling UBL, although all the sorghum seed that we have used since 2019 is sourced directly from UBL. We will only start supplying UBL once our farmers start producing a sufficient volume.

Lastly, many of our target farmers are unable to secure the needed inputs on their own, at least at the beginning. So, all the inputs that we provide our farmers with, are free. Our idea is: if a farmer successfully grows sorghum for 4 straight seasons, they would then be in a position to secure the needed inputs on their own in subsequent seasons, using incomes from the 4 previous seasons. So, the UCF’s current goal is to provide each of our farmers with the needed inputs for four seasons, or two years.

 

Challenges:

Currently, our sorghum project depends largely on small online contributions from individuals, and many of these contributions are only one-off. For this reason, the UCF is limited on the number of farmers that we can support in a given planting season.

We also have only one motorbike (for field visits); we are very worried of fuel costs, given the current rise in fuel prices, and we have no money to pay a fulltime team. This limits us on the number of community training outreaches and daily field visits we can make — to see our farmers’ work, or to provide ongoing technical assistance.

 

Going forward, our goal is twofold:

1). Mass adoption for white sorghum:

We would like to be able to work with as many rural poor farmers in Kamuli and Buyende, as possible. This will not only help move a large number of farmers from poverty, but also, a good volume of sorghum is what will in turn give us an edge on the market. That’s, it is what make our project more attractive to prospective buyers.

 

2). Ensuring that our farmers’ sorghum meets the standards of our prospective buyers.

To do so, we will need to provide all our farmers with a few more inputs (such as fertilizers) than what we are currently providing, and we will need to be able to make regular field visits, to see our farmers work, and to provide ongoing assistance.

Ensuring that our farmers’ sorghum is of the right quality will not only help us meet our buyers needs. But also, it is what will give our farmers the ability, and the means, to a) earn a sufficient income to support their families, and b) use their own incomes to secure the needed inputs in subsequent planting seasons once our support ends.

Our goal, again, is to provide each farmer with free inputs for only the first 4 seasons.

 

Funding needs:

a) Each farmer:

—  10 kgs of seed (enough for 2 acres):  $32

—  A large tarpaulin: $42

—  25kg of DAP (Di-ammonium Phosphate) fertilizers at planting: $36

—  25kg of NPK fertilizers at flowering stage: $36

(Note: the guidelines that we have received from Uganda Breweries are such that a farmer should apply 50kg of DAP per acre at planting, and 50kg of NPK per acre at flowering. But our goal is to provide each farmer with a half of each, to cut costs).

—  Pesticides: $9

—  Spray pump: $25 (lasts more than one season).

Total cost per farmer: $180 (per planting season).

If we are to provide each farmer with 50kg of DAP at planting, and 50kg of NPK at flowering (or 100kg altogether), the total cost per farmer a season would be $252.

 

b) Administrative costs (for the UCF):

One-off expenses:

—  Two more motorbikes (Yamaha DT 125): $12,000. That’s, 6,000 each.

—  The UCF has a dump truck that was donated to us by someone in Seattle, and it is what we use for carrying bulk seed, and gathering our farmers’ produce at harvest. This truck currently needs about $700 for spray painting and general maintenance.

Total cost for one-off expenses: $12,700.

 

Ongoing expenses:

—  A 5-person team, costing $870 a month (that’s, $174 per person).

—  $580 in fuel costs per month (that’s, $145 per week, or $29 per day).

—  Vehicle servicing, maintenance & repair: $200 a month.

Total cost for ongoing expenses: $1,650 per month (or $9,900 for a 6-month planting cycle). Our sorghum takes 4-5 months to mature, but when added to the time that we spend on orientating and training our farmers, each planting cycle is six months).

 

Help us scale this work:

Currently, we the UCF has very little support, and because more farmers have now shown interest in sorghum, partly due to the economic pain arising from covid, the more support that we can raise now, the more we will able to expand this work.

 

Here are the different ways you can help:

a) Recruit your networks and connections to help us raise support.

b) Make a personal contribution on the UCF’s online donation page.

c). Make a wire transfer to the UCF, using the information on our ‘Support Us’ page.

d). The UCF is now part of the Benevity Causes Portal, a platform where employees from all the world’s biggest corporations (including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Cargill, Sam Sung etc) can make donations that are matched by their employer.

If you work at a company that is part of Benevity’s employee workplace giving and corporate matching gift programs, one way you can support our work, is by making a donation that will be matched by your employer. To make a matched donation, all you need to do is search for “Uganda Community Farm (Nabwigulu)” on Benevity.

 

Thank YOU!

Anthony Kalulu, Founder UCF           [ this page was written on June 22, 2022 ].