Communities in Uganda’s north revive agriculture after decades of conflict
Aug 6, 2015 Northern Uganda is emerging as an agricultural goldmine drawing in agribusiness investors, after the end of a protracted war that killed and displaced millions.
David Ojok is one of about 70,000 Ugandan farmers who grow sunflower seed used for cooking oil production under the “Mukwano out growers scheme”.
Looking back at the area in retrospect, cultivating in this area a few years ago would have been near impossible due to the insecurity situation caused by Joseph Kony, a former choirboy who was infamous for abducting children to serve as fighters and sex slaves.
Kony fled with his fighters into the jungles of central Africa in 2005 following an indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In the euphoria of the peaceful atmosphere, Ojok said he now feels safe, which is why he invested in the business.
“We used to have a problem because of Kony but he is now nowhere, he was a big problem to us but now we work freely, we can work on our fields for long hours, sometimes until sunset, the panic that used to be there is no more, this has given us the opportunity to expand our fields and produce more,”
Mukwano Industries, one of the pioneer investor companies in the region, is now reaping benefits in commercial agriculture. Robert Adwek, the operations manager at Mukwano industries had this to say:
“As we talk now, we have upgraded into a sovereign expansion plant with a capacity of over 200 metric tonnes, so yes we are looking at sustaining over 200 metric tonnes a day, as we talk now, we are procuring over 50,000 metric tonnes in a year but our projections in the next 5 years is to procure over 100 metric tonnes, so the sub sector is expanding. We have tremendously expanded to the extent that when Mukwano came in, there were about two mills, small scale mills, but as we talk now, this small town has over 28 mills, it is a tremendous success and they are all feasting from our program from which we started extension services,”
Mukwano Industries, which also works with extension officers to guide farmers and help boost production, is now looking to invest 20 million US dollars with special focus on oil refining, packaging and animal feeds processing.
“After the insurgency, when farmers started producing and getting good prices, good schools started coming up, children started going to school, the impoverished population can now afford medical attention, you can move around and see improved buildings coming up, this is a sign of improvement of development in the community, this is a sign of development in the community, this town when Mukwano moved in in 2003, we had about two or three commercial banks but within Lira now because of this success story, we have almost all the banks in the country represented in Lira, it means there is a lot of money out of this programme flowing within the community,”
Uganda, is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee and relies majorly on Agriculture for sustenance.