“Losing my husband in 2019, I became a sole breadwinner to my eight children and have survived on agriculture; planting mostly sesame,” said Beatrice Muyama, 50, Bunambutye sub-county in Bulambuli district. To have enough food in the home, Beatrice engaged her children – five are still school-going – and these provided labor as a way of reducing labor costs but weren’t effective. Beatrice and many sesame farmers acknowledge that growing the local sesame variety is labor-intensive yet gives low yields becoming a hard-to-manage crop if grown as a cash crop. This impacts the food supply chain of sesame since farmers like Beatrice grow it for food consumption.
As a way of improving the sustainable food supply chain, Ag-Ploutos introduced the non-shattering sesame variety (E107) which is less labor-intensive for farmers in low altitude regions of Bulambuli and Kween Districts in Eastern Uganda. To fully engage sesame farmers, Ag-Ploutos partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Uganda Inclusive Agricultural Markets (FtF IAM) Activity in 2019 for 18 months to introduce E107 hence increasing production and developing an efficient sesame value chain. This variety yields 3-4 times more than the local variety. On harvest and sale, farmers’ income and resilience increase, enabling them to tap into the global market by using forward contract agreements to offer premium prices.
Beatrice is among the 5,076 farmers and buyers that Ag-Ploutos has engaged through contract farming. These farmers received training on better post-harvest practices, plant in lines, weather forecast information, and crop conditioning methods which ensure quality standards along the value chain to the final consumer. Ag-Ploutos has also linked farmers to financial service, production, and marketing services, and genuine inputs dealers – like spray pumps providers. Beatrice was skeptical at first but received training and guidance on how to grow this variety during the dry season.
In November 2020, Beatrice and her group members received one pack of sesame seeds (1.3kgs) for trial on two acres to test the theories of non-shattering, the high yield on harvest, ability to be grown during the dry season, and high pay on the sale. Beatrice received 0.65 kg which she planted on half an acre and in February 2021, she harvested 280kgs which on sale gave her USD 338. The high-quality yield and pay proved the theories about E107.
With easy access to improved seed variety and other inputs, Beatrice’s mindset on sesame growing as a cash crop changed. She also received real-time weather information which was a result of FTF IAM linking Ag-Plotuos to aWhere – a weather ICT provider – enabling her to perform activities promptly and prevent effects of weather extremes like erosion. In addition, access to production finance in form of input loans and insurance from Akello Banker – a partner with Ag-Ploutos – encouraged Beatrice to expand from half an acre to 30 acres for the next season. Beatrice is also guaranteed of the market and a favorable price for her sesame because Ag-Ploutos has signed a grower’s contract with her aggregator Bunambutye ACE to purchase all produced sesame, “due to the market availability through Ag-Ploutos, I can now plant with an assurance of the market and my labor will not be in vain. Ag-Ploutos is going to buy my sesame as well as maize that our group planted.”
Beatrice has also supported 10 Village Agents, who have reached over 1,050 farmers on average 100 farmers each.
Through such partnerships, FtF IAM has supported agricultural actors like Ag-Ploutos by creating incentives that lead to the adoption of quality inputs and services. Hence increasing productivity, incomes, and improving the livelihoods of households contributing to the Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) Uganda’s goal of reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Ag-Ploutos is an agricultural firm that promotes the use of advanced technologies and innovations to strengthen and improve sustainable food supply chains in Uganda.