- January 4, 2021
- Posted by: Albert Muhumuza
- Category: news
Compiled by the CAES COMMUNICATION OFFICE
FARMERS growing potatoes and Sorghum in South Western Uganda have got a reason to smile after their long awaited prayer for value addition has been answered by Makerere University Researchers.
This after a team of Researchers headed by the Dean School of Agricultural Sciences Prof. Johnny Mugisha came up with a project titled: Enhancing Value addition on Potato-Sorghum enterprises for Improved Livelihoods in Uganda (EVaPoSIL).
The six months’ project which was implemented in South Western Uganda was focusing on enhancing the physical, economic and nutrition value of potato (Solanum tuberlosum) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolar) in Uganda.
While presenting the research finding on Tuesday 15th December 2020 at Makerere University Senate Building, During the Research Dissemination, Prof Mugisha stressed that Potato and sorghum are the South-Western region’s main enterprises.
He however said, they compete for farm resources, yet in terms of household food, they are neither substitutes nor complements.
“Sorghum occupies a large portion of farm land but is among the lowest yielding with 1.4Metrick tons per hectare according to statistics at UBos of 2010 and lowest profitable crops.
The variety grown (sweet) he said has high socio-cultural value among the population with limited use for local drinks – bushera and muramba and no industrial use.
“Similarly, in potatoes, value addition is largely limited to consumption of fresh tubers with 92.6% as boiled potato, “he said.
This he said has been registering a declining productivity from 7.0 Metric tons per hectare in 2007 to 4.2 in 2017
Furthermore, 30-40% of the output is small size which is non-marketable tubers causing a loss of US$13.7–18.3 million per annum. Yet, potato and sorghum are potential pathways for enhancing household incomes
He emphasized that Food and Nutrition security in South-Western Uganda is characterized by land scarcity, decreasing agricultural productivity, high postharvest losses and low per-capita income.
This project he said aims at enhancing the value of both crops by innovative value addition that makes them complements, reduce harvest losses, increase incomes, and make available to consumers a diversity of high quality high value products.
“EVaPoSIL project was conceived on the hypothesis that the economic value of the two competing crops (potato and sorghum) would be increased by making them complementary enterprises through developing composite potato-sorghum based products of higher economic and nutrient value than the potato tubers alone especially the tiny non-marketable tubers and the non-profitable sorghum grains, “he explained.
The major objective of the project he said is to improve the economic value of potato and sorghum enterprises for improved livelihoods of the value chain actors.
“This involves determining supply dynamics of raw materials for production of high value potato-sorghum based products that are economically viable, and commercializing the consumer acceptable products, “added the dean Prof. Mugisha
He reported that the project provides empirical knowledge on how to technologically maximise returns from potato and sorghum enterprises.
“It has indeed confirmed that sorghum and potato compete for the scarce farm resources, their productivity is at a decline, but farmers are not about to drop these enterprises. It has also established production is constrained by limited access to profitable markets and high post-harvest losses.
Building on the MasterCard-RUFORUM funded Community Action Research Project (CARP+) titled “Making Potato Value Chain Enhance Productivity and Incomes in Uganda” that tested the feasibility of production of potato flour and other potato-based products, EVaPoSIL has developed and market tested a number of potato-sorghum based food products that are nutrient rich,
Results from market testing show that the products are highly acceptable by a cross section of consumers, and the prices they are willing to pay is above the breakeven point of commercialising the products, “explained Prof. Mugisha.
He believes that Production of a diversity of home-use and commercially viable high-value food products from the current low-value crops will increase the demand for the crops as raw materials for processing, which will incentivise farmers to increase production and productivity.
“Creating alternative and profitable use of the tiny non-marketable potato tubers will make them unavailable to farmers who currently recycle them as seed but of inferior quality escalating the declining potato productivity.
The demand and economic value for sorghum grain will increase beyond the current socio-cultural value, also increasing productivity and returns on investment
Farm incomes will increase, post-harvest losses will reduce, and the food value both nutrient and economic will increase, “he stated.
According to Prof. Mugisha, EVaPoSIL project is in line with Uganda National Agricultural Policy whose mission is to transform subsistence farming to commercial agriculture as it contributes to NDP III strategic objective of enhancing value addition in key growth opportunities” with a focus on agro-industrialization to transform the subsistence agriculture sector to a commercial and competitive sector
He noted that the Production and commercialization of high value potato-sorghum products will create jobs for the population including for men, women and youths.
The Half day Project Dissemination was attended among other people the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, his Deputy in charge of Academics Haji Umal Kakumba, The Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Prof. Bernard Bashasha, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF), NARO, Uganda cooperative Alliance, African Agribusiness Incubation Network, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, incubators, Academia’s, farmers and students among others.
The project team headed by Prof. Mugisha was also composed of Dr. Abel Atukwase – Makerere University, Dr. Proscovia Ntakyo – Kabale University, Dr. Alex Ariho – Excel Hort Consult Agribusiness Incubator Ltd, Dr. Losira Nasirumbi Sanya – Makerere University, Mr. Napoleon Heri Bahati-Kajunju – Makerere University, Ms. Marion Nyirarukundo – Makerere University and Ms. Bridget Nantambi from Makerere University.
The Project was funded by the government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund (MAK-RIF)
The Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe in his address to the participants observed the need to set up a plant in South Western Uganda which can cause a demand for the small tubers which would otherwise be put to waste but can act as raw materials.
“We have seen farmers injecting a lot of money in gardens but at the end of the day the yields are so miserable and cannot be marketable. but if a plant is stationed exactly where such farmers are located, it means they will no longer make loses but will have to sell even the tinny tubers which they would be throwing away as wastes, “said Nawangwe
Nawangwe applauded the government for supporting research and innovation however requested that if more funds are put into research, it will help to commercialize the innovations which in turn will create jobs mostly for the youths who are the majority.
During the dissemination, participants were concerned about the lack of quality seeds for potatoes which has increased the demand for quality seeds tremendously responsible for the declining productivity coupled with post-harvest losses.
According to Napoleon Kajunju, over 81% of farmers are experiencing reduced productivity, economic variability and nonprofit ability of the products.
“Tinny non marketable tubers are plenty at farm gate, but under the project, picking them will ensure that all farmers get 100% profit from production, “he said
Dr. Alex Ariho the General Manager – Excel Hort Consult Agribusiness Incubator Ltd, called upon the cooperatives to take up such a venture such that the farmers are brought into groups to assist them produce the raw materials if sustainability is to be realized.
“This is a great work done, we need to register the products to make sure that intellectual property is protected. We must incubate the startup and encourage the private sector to participate. We don’t need to start a business which will not be sustained because this will become a disaster in this country, he said.
He observed that using the neglected potato size which is always left at the farm gate can easily lead to sustainability of the business.
The Deputy Director General NARO Dr. Sadik said that finding quality seeds for potatoes has been one of the very big challenges they have been facing saying they are considering empowering the seed companies to spearhead that.
“Finding adaptability, disease free and high yields have been NAROs focus, but currently, we are focusing on producing potatoes with attributes for processing. We need to ensure that there is change so that we can build a resilient food security, “he said.
He said NARO is committed towards increasing raw material supply to sustain the incubation capacity of the business.
“This project has the capacity to listed to farmers address their concerns and link them to the industries, “he said
Dr. Losira Nasirumbi a project CO-PI said the project will optimize the production of high potatoes and flour for production of high value foods.
The General Secretary Uganda Cooperative Alliance CPA Asiimwe Ivan pledged conclusive support to ensure that cooperatives are part and parcel to the growth of the business which is mainly targeting to benefit the farmers.