Transforming Northern Uganda into a regional food basket

Transforming Northern Uganda into a regional food basket

Empowering smallholder farmers of rice, cassava and soybean to transform Northern Uganda into a food basket for Uganda and its neighbouring countries.

Northern Uganda has got an enormous potential to become the food basket of Uganda and its neighbouring countries. It accounts for more than half of Uganda’s arable land and receives enough rainfall for two crop production cycles per year in the central and western parts.

Unfortunately, socio-economic development in the region is lagging: the poverty level in Northern Uganda is significantly higher than the rest of the country, and families regularly face food shortages just before the harvest.

As part of a bigger project and together with Kilimo Trust, Rikolto will work to increase market access for smallholder farmers in the rice, cassava and soybean sector.


There are several challenges in the value chain of rice, cassava and soybean, including the high costs of production and trade and variable quality which limits the competitiveness on the international market.

  • At the farm level, a key challenge is that farmers who put extra effort in managing their fields and crops, don't get rewarded for that: investing in quality does not pay off. There is also a lack of knowledge on how to improve quality and produce sustainably. When farmers want to invest, they also face challenges in accessing improved seed and genuine fertilisers and pesticides. Farmers’ organisations are not providing services to the farmers because they are weak or dormant and lack a good market linkage.

  • At the processing level, milling, storage, warehousing and mechanisation services are poor. A significant reason for this is the lack of business analysis and planning in the sector.


Rikolto will foster linkages between farmers, companies processing the harvest and buyers, assess market opportunities, and facilitate market exchanges through the following activities:

  • Support cooperatives and Farmer Business Organisations to strengthen their internal management systems, leadership and business skills. Depending on the needs of each organisation, supporting the cooperatives and Farmer Business Organisations ranges from advising on transparent bookkeeping and statutory documents to defining the expectations of the members and the role of the management. We will especially support women and young people to gain access to business, financial and insurance support services and support them in their decision to enter the value chain.

  • Develop quality protocols and procedures to support the management of the cooperatives.

  • Make affordable credits accessible to farmer organisations and companies in the value chain by linking the them to financial service providers who give financial and business management support.

  • Develop capacity building materials including manuals, pamphlets and flyers on quality and standards of commodities.

  • Promote trade in (semi-)finished products that meet both local and East African Community grain standards. This will be achieved through upgrading of storage processes and facilities; promotion of post-harvest handling technologies and demonstration on the use of efficient processing equipment and technologies, while supporting aggregators and processors to put in place quality management systems.

  • Develop and scale up digital solutions to ensure that there is a well-functioning information system in place for producer organisations, traders and processors. Linking information about the producers to companies in the value chain can benefit all value chain actors.

Development Initiative for Northern Uganda

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is coordinating a project to enhance food and nutrition security, increase household incomes and improve maternal and child nutrition and health in Northern Uganda. This project is part of the Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU), a programme launched by the Government of Uganda with the support of the European Union. Together with Kilimo Trust, Rikolto will work to increase market accessibility for smallholder farmers of rice, cassava, and soybean.

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This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Rikolto and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

The project will be implemented from January 2020 to December 2022 in two sub-regions of Northern Uganda: Lango and Teso.

The project will involve 51,250 smallholder farmer households, in total over 260,000 people. In addition to farmers, the project will also include extension officers, processors, agro-dealers, aggregators, transporters, community facilitators and peer educators.

What have we achieved in 2021?

  • Out of the targeted 2,050 farmer organisations, we have trained 1,860 farmer organisations on post-harvest handling to prevent losses and maintain high quality after harvest. We achieved this through working with 186 Community Development Promoters, who we trained on Post-Harvest Handling practices of soya bean, rice, and cassava over a 3-day period. They then went on to conduct farmer organisation level training on our behalf.

  • The three-days Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop for Community Development Promoters covered harvesting, transportation, drying, processing, pest control and storage. The knowledge that farmers have acquired on post-harvest handling will go a long way in helping them to improve the quality of their produce, and lead to them attracting much higher prices than they currently earn.

  • High-quality training materials on post-harvest handling for soybean, cassava, and rice were developed, printed and distributed to project beneficiaries throughout 2021. The distribution of the materials was done during the training of farmer organisations by the Community Development Promoters.

  • Besides post-harvest handling, we also trained cooperatives and farmer organisations on access to finance and agricultural insurance between October-November 2021. Overall, a total of 572 smallholder farmers participated in the training. Rikolto also facilitated a relationship between farmer organisations and different financial institutions. A total of 21 farmer agricultural marketing cooperatives with 11,516 members and 52 farmer organisations with 2,500 members have been connected to different financial institutions.

  • When we assessed the main challenges that the farmer organisations were facing, it became clear that they had issues with maintaining records, which made their production and harvest projections unreliable. We also found out that smaller buyers and off-takers wanted to maintain a supplier database of smallholder farmers to help them in planning produce purchases from farmer organisations, as well as provide technical advice to them so good quality produce is assured. We therefore introduced a multi-purpose digital solution that can be used as a supply chain management tool on the one hand, while still retaining the capability to disseminate SMS information (both technical advice and market-related information), and integrating with other already existing payment solutions. The e-prod digital solution - for both computer and mobile phone - was selected as it encompasses all the functionalities required by the different actors (businesses and farmer organisations).

  • So far, 100 Community Development Promoters from seven districts were coached on the use of eprod Mobile App. They then oriented the leadership of farmer organisations on the use of the digital solution, including how to use it for field data collection from their members, editing collected data, and uploading it. To date, the farmer organisations' leaders and four off-takers/processors have collected and entered data from a total of 6,028 farmers in the system, and the exercise is still on-going.

What do we expect to achieve by 2022?

Rikolto expects to achieve the following results in the Teso and Lango subregions:

  • Create two digital information platforms (one per region) to facilitate the link between farmers and other actors in the value chain.

  • Strengthen the access to finance and insurance for 30% of targeted farmer organisations.

Long-term expected results

With achieving increased market access for smallholder farmers, Rikolto will contribute to the following four long-term results of the whole project coordinated by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture:

  • Food, nutrition and income security of households is increased

  • Market systems are sustainable and value chains are efficient

  • Nutrition status among children under five years is improved

  • Women and youth are economically empowered

Ultimately, stability in northern Uganda is restored as a result of there being a strong foundation for sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development.

International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Kilimo Trust

Kilimo Trust

Government of Uganda

The European Union