West Acholi Cooperative Union, in collaboration with aBi Development, is spearheading a transformative project aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and empowering smallholder farmers in the region.
The West Acholi Cooperative Union, operational since 1960, has been actively engaged in promoting agricultural development in Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya, and Omoro districts. Initially focused on cotton production, the Union has diversified its activities into seed multiplication and financial services and currently works with 11,474 farmers, including women and youth.
Through the support of the aBi Green Challenge Fund, aBi Development has extended a matching grant to West Acholi Cooperative Union, enabling them to implement vital initiatives. Jackson Owiki, the Chairman of the Board of West Acholi Cooperative Union, expressed gratitude to aBi Development and the Kingdom of Denmark for their unwavering support. He stated: “Today, we work with over 10,000 farmers, and we believe we shall continue scaling up this figure.”
Under the project, West Acholi Cooperative Union has embarked on seed multiplication for soybean and rice on 120 and 80 acres, respectively. The Union has also dedicated efforts to build the capacity of 3,410 smallholder farmers in crucial areas such as community-supported agriculture, agronomical practices, post-harvest handling, and agroforestry.
Paul Atin, an agricultural officer at West Acholi Cooperative Union, highlighted the significance of seed multiplication. “This is the first time that we are doing seed multiplication,” he said. “We started initially in 2018, but this was interrupted by Covid-19. We resumed in 2021, and aBi Development came in late 2022 to help us scale these up.”
The production of quality declared seeds is a key focus of the project, with the Union aiming to supply them to farmers at subsidized rates. The improved seeds have demonstrated higher yields compared to home-safe seeds, ranging from 700 to 800 kgs per acre for soybeans in rain-fed agriculture, compared to 400 to 500 kgs per acre.
“The impact of the project extends beyond agricultural productivity,” said Bob Ogen, the General Manager of West Acholi Cooperative Union.
Jackson Owiki, the chairman of the board of West Acholi Cooperative Union, emphasized their commitment to good governance, gender equality, and anti-corruption measures. “In terms of governance, the Union is compliant,” he stated. “We have policies in place against corruption, accountability, and reporting channels, ensuring that our workers are well aware of these policies.”
Furthermore, the Union is looking to strengthen its money-lending arm through its Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation (SACCO). After the project’s completion, additional funding will be sought to capitalize on the SACCO and expand its services. Owiki also highlighted the Union’s efforts to address gender-based violence, stating, “We have a protection policy in place, along with a board manual and HR policies.”
The partnership between West Acholi Cooperative Union and aBi Development exemplifies the commitment to sustainable agriculture and rural development. Through innovative initiatives, capacity building, and targeted support, the project aims to transform the lives of smallholder farmers and foster economic growth in Northern Uganda.