Representatives of farmers’ cooperatives across the East African region have been urged to embrace commercial agriculture to boost their profession.
The call was made yesterday by Attaher Maiga, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) country representative, during a workshop on agribusiness and entrepreneurship development in Kigali.
“In general, farmers know their work, but what they know less is agribusiness and how to market and commercialise their activities. They need to understand agribusiness market dynamics for them to be empowered by their work,” he said.
The three-day workshop, organised by FAO, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), aims at equipping leaders of farmers’ cooperatives in the region with skills in leadership and governance as well as offer technical capacity support for farmers’ organisations.
It is being held under the theme; “Cultivating Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Culture.”
Dr Télesphore Ndabamenye, the deputy director-general for Crop Production and Food Security at Rwanda Agriculture Board, challenged managers of the cooperatives to use the skills acquired from the workshop to increase produce for sustainable agribusiness.
“Agribusiness is one of the key pillars of economic growth in the region. When we look back to the last six agricultural seasons, we realise that agriculture land increased by four per cent while the produce increased by only two per cent,” he noted.
However, Joseph Gafaranga, a member and trainer in Imbaraga Farmers’ Association in Musanze District, said low prices were a major challenge.
“We always count losses as we sell our produce at lower prices compared to the high production costs. For instance, for Irish potatoes, during the harvest period of November, December and January, we sell a kilogramme at Rwf70, yet it takes between Rwf100 and Rwf120 to produce one kilogramme, which is the same for beans and maize,” he said.
Nathanael Ntirampeba, the president of Confédération des Associations des Producteurs Agricoles pour le Développement (CAPAD) in Burundi, said access to market and finance is still a challenge for agribusiness in his country.
“We have done much to increase our produce, not only in my country but the whole region. Yet, banks still drag their feet when it comes to offering loans to the agriculture sector.”
However, Philip Kiriro, the president of East African Farmers Federation, said an e-Granary project is being piloted in Kenya to help farmers market and commercialise their activities.
“The e-Granary is one of our business models towards developing sustainable agribusiness with the EAFF.”
EAFF is a regional network of national association and apex cooperatives in 10 countries within the East African Community, the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing together 23 farmers’ cooperatives.