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Uganda’s Farmers Need Tools, Education, Business Leader Says

Uganda’s Farmers Need Tools, Education, Business Leader Says

Josephine Okot, founder of Uganda’s leading seed company, says Ugandan farmers would be 66 percent more productive if they had access to rudimentary tools such as hand-held hoes and better agricultural extension services, according to an interview in The Guardian.

Victoria Seeds supplies small farms in Uganda and exports to South Sudan, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, according to The Guardian report. The company was founded in 2004 and has grown to 140 employees with business in the vicinity of $2.4 million. It deals with more than 900 farmers who grow seeds for the company and markets 95 varieties of legume, cereal, vegetables, oil, horticultural and forage crops.

Okot has won numerous awards for her company, including an Africa Award for Entrepreneurship in 2011.

But she is frustrated with what she sees as little education available to Uganda’s farmers. Extension services — widely available in the 1970s — are now available to only 14 percent or fewer farming households today, she said in The Guardian report. She stressed the need for education on fertilizer application, pest control and post-harvest loss prevention.

Okot argued that Uganda’s Department for International Development should not only devote a larger part of its budget to supporting agricultural extension services, but that aid agencies should support Ugandan companies to compete on a global basis with the newest skills and technologies available to increase productivity and push demand.

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A commodity exchange — such as one recently begun in Ethiopia — would benefit Uganda’s agricultural segment, she said in the report. Such an exchange would improve quality, encourage construction of storage facilities and boost trade.

Victoria Seeds began work on a third seed processing plant in 2012 to help meet demand for improved quality seed, and plans to move its main office near the Ugandan capital of Kampala, the report said. However, a lack of the most basic of facilities — such as water, electricity, and an access road — is slowing progress. Okot blamed the Uganda Investment Authority for its failure to deliver those services.