While interacting, one cannot miss the sight of joy on Mr. Jasper Okengo’ s face. Throughout his narration, a phrase that constantly comes up is, “Thank you Kilimo Trust, thank you DINU-BRENU Project.”
Mr. Jasper Okengo is a 57-year-old rice farmer in Otuke District, married with 11 children. He is a member of Ogor joint farmer cooperative society limited located in Bar okango village, Otuke District. Jasper has been farming for 15years and considers agriculture his main source of livelihood. For the long time he has been doing agriculture, he attests that the benefits and returns have not been matching the effort. He attributes this to the many production and marketing challenges he has faced mostly stemming from knowledge gaps.
Jasper says, “Because I did not know any better, my farming was characterized by poor seed selection, wrong timing during planting, poor planning, and middlemen were taking advantage and cheating me during marketing of my paddy rice. I often bought grain from the local market and used it as seed, which not only had poor quality and germinability but was also of mixed varieties and very susceptible to pests and diseases. This was affecting my production output”. He continues to elaborate that the returns from the farm were significantly reduced by the high cost of threshing.
Through his cooperative, Jasper became one of the beneficiary farmers of the ‘Building Resilience to Enhance Food and Nutrition Security, Incomes and Health in Northern Uganda under the Development Initiative of Northern Uganda’ (DINU-BRENU) Project in 2020. Through the BRENU project, he received and attended several trainings (such as farming as business/business development, postharvest handling, quality standards and control, among others), got access to improved postharvest technologies (motorized soybean thresher, automated grain cleaner, digital platform weighing scale, and moisture meter), and was linked to large formal buyers through the cooperative like Diners group limited (for paddy rice), and Lira Resort enterprise limited (Soybean grains).
Because of the business linkages that meant an assured market, Jasper got the confidence and motivation to increase production. In 2021, following the business linkage to Oasis Agribusiness Limited, he procured 200kgs of improved rice seeds (super variety) and planted 10 acres that season, from the initial 8 acres planted in 2019 (using home saved seed). In 2019, Jasper harvested 1.6 MTs of paddy rice per acre, however, in 2021, this increased to 3.5 MTs/acre.
“After engaging in project activities and utilizing the interventions, my seasonal paddy output has increased from 12.8 MTs in 2019 to 35 MTs of paddy rice in 2021”.
Jasper has been able to take advantage of the formal business trade agreements and linkages established. In December 2021, he sold 30 MTs of paddy rice to Diners Group Limited at 1,200 Ugx per Kg amounting to UGX 36,000,000. A balance of 5MTs was saved to be sold as seeds in the next season to other farmers.
“My annual income has increased from UGX 19,000,000 to UGX 37,500,000.” With the income from the paddy rice sold, Jasper decided to apply for a tractor loan from DINU-OPM office that was advertised on the radio and meant for commercial farmers due to the challenges he faced during land preparation (high cost of hiring tractor) and a growing demand for tractor services in his district. He excitedly explains “I applied for the tractor loan and through recommendation from the district, I was approved, and I made the required 10% (14,000,000 Ugx) deposit from the amount realised from the sales of my paddy rice out of total cost of 140,000,000 Ugx for the tractor. I used the remaining money from the paddy sales (UGX 22,000,000) to pay school fees, purchase inputs for the following season and increase the stock in my hardware business”.
Going forward, Jasper plans to massively secure work (demand) for his tractor services to help in the quarterly loan repayment, use his tractor to increase the acreage from 10 to 30 by 2023. Additionally, Jasper also wishes to continue buying improved rice seeds, and procure his own threshing machine that would support the processing of his high-quality paddy rice. He envisions himself to be the main producer of paddy rice and supplier in Otuke District and to achieve that Jasper asserts that he has to stick to his plan and keep on applying all the knowledge he has gained as well as utilize all the technologies that were given optimally.