Rebecca Mukyala, a 48-year old single mother of two, keeps the key to the community warehouse — built by WFP in Nambaale sub-county in eastern Uganda in 2015. She is the marketing manager of a group of over a thousand small-scale farmers who jointly manage the premises. Roughly half of them are female heads of households.
During the harvest season the warehouse opens every day, with group members bringing their dried crops, some from as far as 10 kilometres away. The farmers who live closest to the 300-metric-ton-capacity structure are responsible for keeping the warehouse and its surroundings clean. The sub-county provides policemen who guard it at night.
“Before we stored our grain in that youth centre,” Rebecca says, pointing at a grey concrete building with lots of windows. “But we lost much of it to rodents and rain water. With this warehouse we don’t encounter any such losses.”
WFP has built or subsidized 70 similar warehouses in 40 districts in Uganda as part of a wider effort to assist the government address root causes of hunger using market-driven solutions. Small-scale farmers in the country are at particular risk of hunger due to their low crop production combined with high post-harvest losses.
WFP’s development programme is addressing these challenges by improving farmers’ skills, building infrastructure, subsidizing modern storage equipment and providing a market for quality grain. All contributing to farmers being able to grow enough surplus crops to sell and earn a decent living to provide for their families.
The warehouses act as agricultural business hubs with WFP’s NGO partners and the district local government training farmers in agronomic skills, governance, financing, value addition, warehouse management (including quality control) and business planning. The farmers can also access inputs and group loans and have the opportunity to bulk and market their grain together, getting a better price for their crops. Buyers wanting to buy grain in bulk also now know where to come.
“We worked hard to meet WFP’s grain standards,” Rebecca says. “It was a challenge getting farmers to not dry their crop on the bare ground, and not pile up wet maize, as this increases risks of aflatoxins. The most important thing we have learnt through WFP is post-harvest management.”
Rebecca’s house is not far from the community warehouse and is made of naked bricks and bare concrete. Initially it was just one room, but thanks to her improved maize sales she has managed to build two other rooms.
“We are pleased that WFP is coming to buy our crop and we like working directly with them,” Rebecca says excitedly. “Traders supplying schools in the area only offered us UGS 850 (US$0.25) per kilo this season. We agreed a better price direct with WFP of UGS 1,220 (US$ 0.34) per kilo. Also because we won the WFP contract, an NGO gave us 10 tarpaulins and a spraying pump to boost our capacity.”
Rebecca and the group’s secretary Christine arrive early at the warehouse the day WFP’s truck comes to pick up 40 metric tons of maize, aggregated by 156 households. The women negotiate every detail of the sale with WFP, including who will pay the loaders.
“We want to manage every step because the farmers have entrusted us with their grain,” Rebecca says. “They have been relying on us to open a door to big buyers, especially WFP.”