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Evaluating local partnerships in Uganda

NEF Consulting’s clients operate in a range of sectors and regions, and so do we. Emily Atkinson was recently in Uganda to conduct an evaluation for a development programme with local farming communities.

Emily Atkinson, Consultant

Recently I was lucky enough to travel to the Rwenzori region of West Uganda as part of NEF Consulting’s evaluation of Farm Africa’s Maendeleo Agricultural Enterprise Fund (MAEF).

Launched in 2011 and revised in 2013, MAEF provided smallholder farmers in East Africa with better access to improved agricultural technologies by focusing on providing grant support to projects that use a proven value-chain approach to agricultural innovation.

Supporting local innovation

One of the four projects funded was the cassava value-chain project, delivered by PRICON Limited. A local NGO based in Fort Portal, Uganda, PRICON engaged in rural development work with farming communities across the districts of the Rwenzori region, and through this work, established partnerships with an array of local organisations.

“We are in the same group and never fought, we like each other; in our group if someone dies we collect money for their burial and collect money for their coffins. They lend each other money. Before, we were not in groups, we worked independently.” (Male smallholder farmer, Nkununu Village, December 2016)

By building on existing relationships and taking advantage of extensive local knowledge, PRICON designed and mobilised an intervention working within the cassava value chain to enhance the productivity and production of cassava for improved food security. Communities could then take advantage of potential higher incomes from the production and processing of high quality cassava into white flour for commercial application.

Through extensive field research based on the personal accounts of farmers involved, the results of NEF Consulting’s evaluation were profound. PRICON’s intervention, funded by Farm Africa, was found to impact smallholder in important ways:

  • Socially, through enhanced community cohesion between cassava growers.
  • Personally, by building the empowerment of the women involved and through the peace of mind given by their household’s improved food security.
  • Economically, through building economic resilience and strategic financial planning.

The evaluation demonstrated the value of PRICON’s partnership model, enabling local partners to deliver aspects of the programme themselves. The groups were able to use their own expertise, as a tool through which to build social mobilisation and deliver the intervention effectively.

Local organisations building local solutions

Through the process of evaluation it was clear that mobilising groups was a critical component of the intervention’s approach and a key to the later successes.

Working with Farm Africa we clearly illustrated the opportunities available from grant-based programmes that enable organisations, on the ground, to design, innovate and implement locally relevant interventions to deliver effective, value for money, impact to communities most in need.

“Now I have some input as now we make money together; I don’t see why man should make all the decisions when we are married and live under the same roof; We all sit at the table and decide together; Before, the man used to decide as I used to fear him; I’m not happy to revert because I feel decisions are very important in the home and for the development of the kids we have produced together; I like being able to work for my own money. Free money is not sustainable, what if the man dies?” (Female smallholder farmer, Nkununu Village, December 2016)

In the Rwenzori region surrounding Fort Portal, cassava is the second staple food crop after bananas. Most commonly, a local variety (low yielding and slow to mature) is produced on a small scale by smallholder farmers using basic ‘hand-hoe’ technology.

Although households in the region are often part of a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), loans available are short-term and do not cover important costs, such as school fees for good quality education or investment in enterprises. This means that members are often forced to sell their crops at low prices to pay-off loans.