16 January 2015, Kampala, Uganda – Smallholder farmers and actors in the potato crop production value chain in Uganda are set to benefit from increased market following the launch of a new project titled “Strengthening Linkages between Small Actors and Buyers in the Root and Tubers Sector of Africa”.[pagebreak]The four-year programme aimed at increasing the production and market accessibility of cassava, yam, sweet potatoes which are important staple food crops in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
It will also help boost the value of intra-Africa exports in staples as ‘one of the largest single sources of growth’ for the African agro-food sector.
In Uganda, the focus will be on strengthening market linkages in the potato value chain.
The project was officially launched by the Director Crops Resources Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Mr Okaasai Opolot. In his key note address, Mr Okaasai confirmed that potato is a priority food security and income generating crop for many Ugandans particularly those who live in the Southwestern districts of Kabale and Kisoro but also in the Eastern, Central, Western Highlands of Rwenzori Mountains and the North Western region such as Nebbi district.
“Production has been responding to market demands and figures show that production output has grown from 145,000 metric tons in 2008 to 168,000 metric tons in 2013. Yields are nonetheless way below the .potential per hectare,” he noted, adding that the average smallholder will be lucky to produce 7metric tonnes per hectare compared to the world average of 19mt/ha.
The project will be executed by FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.
In his remarks, FAO Deputy Country Representative in Uganda, Dr Massimo Castiello said that the focus is on improving root and tuber output, promotion of value addition and market accessibility by farmers.
“The project also centers on building capacities of other small fragmented private sector actors, such as agro-processors and traders. These actors contribute to the delivery of potatoes, raw and processed, to the end consumer and they play a crucial role in linking smallholders to the broader market,” Dr Castiello added.
Root and tuber crops are second in importance to cereals as a global source of dietary calories accounting for 20 per cent of calories consumed in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Crops such as cassava, yam and potatoes are not only important for food security, but they also increase the income of farmers and small businesses, particularly those run by women.
The € 5 million-worth programme is funded by the European Union under the Group of Africa-Caribbean-Pacific countries and will be implemented in Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon , and Malawi.
Agatha Ayebazibwel Communication Officer