In a significant effort to promote sustainable agriculture and empower smallholder farmers in Uganda, the Royal Danish Embassy conducted an appraisal assessment of aBi Development. The appraisal is looking at the last cycle of aBi Development’s interventions and also maps those for the next five years.
This assessment, led by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), was attended by development partners from USAID, GiZ, the World Bank, the Netherlands Embassy, the Government of Uganda, UCDA, Food and Agricultural Organisation and IFAD, and was conducted on the afternoon of May 17, 2023, at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
“Through this meeting, we aim to kickstart discussions for the next five years of Danish support to aBi Development,” said Ole Dahl Rasmussen, the Team Leader of Economic Affairs at the Danish Embassy in Uganda. “Our proposed project seeks to address the pressing challenges faced by farmers in the country. We have called upon key stakeholders to provide valuable insights and answer crucial questions regarding the projects we are trying to implement here in Uganda,” he said.
Ibrahim Abayo, the Interim CEO of aBi Development, in his welcome remarks, stated that aBi Development had been in existence for 12 years, and over time, had witnessed a shift in approach. “Our thinking is now driven by the effects of climate change on agriculture, and we are dedicated to improving the resilience of smallholder farmers. With Uganda’s heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture, we are focusing on increasing the adoption of green solutions to enhance agricultural productivity, boost incomes, and generate employment opportunities. We also seek to influence climate policy and welcome input from our stakeholders,” he said.
Martin Fowler from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) commended aBi Development as a respected brand, stating, “USAID has had a fruitful partnership with aBi, providing both support and co-financing. We have collaborated in the maize, beans, and coffee value chains, and these are areas where aBi has made significant strides.
“We recently supported KAWACOM, an implementing partner of aBi Development, in establishing a coffee washing station in West Nile, which has been a major achievement. We are excited about the upcoming five years and in collaboration with the Dutch Government, we recognize the importance of focusing our efforts in areas where aBi has already made a positive impact.”
He also added: “There is also money that was not spent in the initial workings with aBi, we are exploring avenues to release this money back into aBi to complete what it was needed for, we shall also make available the money from the problematic cases to ensure aBi does its work effectively.”
Josephat Byaruhanga of the Netherlands Embassy applauded aBi Development’s commitment to reaching as many smallholder farmers as possible. He stated, “aBi’s unique value proposition lies in supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which enables them to reach a broader segment of the farming community. This approach has helped lift numerous farmers out of poverty and has become a remarkable success story. Furthermore, aBi’s growing human resource capabilities indicate its continuous growth and the positive influence it can have on the people they work with.”
Dr Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira, the Executive Director of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), stressed the importance of understanding farmers’ needs and investing in their capacity building. He proposed, “…to ensure the long-term sustainability of investments, we need to introduce a matching-grants mechanism that encourages farmers to appreciate the value of their own contributions. By considering the coffee value chain comprehensively, from the grassroots level to the district level, the UCDA enhanced the skills of extension workers who are then required to train others. This decentralized approach is expected to strengthen farmers where they are and create a more resilient agricultural sector, these extension workers are also available to work with aBi where it is active,” he emphasized.
Fred Zake of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority highlighted the need for innovative private-sector solutions and skilled workers in the agricultural sector. He said: “We must address the disconnect between universities and the sector. For example, the termination of the horticulture degree at Makerere University due to graduates lacking practical skills is a cause for concern. Collaboration between universities, research institutions, and the private sector is crucial to bridge this gap and ensure graduates have the necessary practical knowledge.”
As discussions continued, participants emphasized various challenges and potential solutions. Access to finance, particularly for smallholder farmers, remained a significant hurdle, and participants proposed the provision of grants and concessional loans as viable options. Gender inclusion, capacity building at higher learning institutions, and collaborations for maximum impact were also highlighted as key areas for development.
Robert Ocaaya, the Component Manager at GiZ, expressed interest in potential future cooperation with aBi, acknowledging their longevity and unique position. He highlighted ongoing discussions regarding a green finance project and envisioned possible collaborations between aBi and GiZ.
The meeting concluded on a positive note, with stakeholders expressing their appreciation for aBi Development’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and their unwavering support for the empowerment of smallholder farmers in Uganda. The Royal Danish Embassy’s upcoming financial support, in collaboration with IFAD and DANIDA, marks a significant step forward in greening agriculture and driving positive change in the agricultural landscape of Uganda.