Uwamale: a sustainable cooperative for sustainable rice production

Uwamale: a sustainable cooperative for sustainable rice production

17/01/2020

“As a member of the Uwamale Cooperative, I have learnt so much through Rikolto’s trainings on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). I have transferred that knowledge into how I farm and seen profound improvements in quality and production. But more than anything, I am grateful to always have food readily available in my home, for my family,”

Khadija Munyanyembe member of the Uwamale Cooperative

Uwamale farmers’ cooperative was established 15 years ago, in Arumeru district and is part of the Leki Tatu irrigation scheme. The scheme has capacity production of 4000 tons of paddy per year, a quarter of which (531.5 tons) is attributed to Uwamale. Originally comprising of 15 farmers, (4M, 9F), since its formation, the cooperative has grown to 600 rice farmers (169M, 471F). It was started with the objectives to bring together paddy farmers under one entity to address their shared challenges, learn better agricultural practices, improve agricultural skills and increase production.

The cooperative has been able to achieve these objectives and more and in 2018 alone, the cooperative harvested 531.5 tons of rice, with each kilogram selling at an average 1500 Tanzania Shillings and collectedly generated Tanzania Shillings (TZS) 79,650,000 million in revenue.

The cooperative accommodates farmers who are both member and non-members. Member farmers pay a membership fee of TZS 15,000 while non-members pay a double, TZS 30,000. The non-members exist mainly due to their lack of awareness regarding cooperative benefits. Previously, the cooperative has also been accused of a lack of transparency which left farmers hesitant to fully commit. To change these attitudes and get more farmers on board as members, Rikolto intervened and appointed a business consultant to change Uwamale cooperative’s negative narrative, create a transparent medium between the cooperative and all stakeholders and explain membership advantages to farmers.

The Uwamale Headquarters in Arumeru District. Picture by: Sandra Kabongoyi

Why membership is key

There are cost subsidization benefits that membership farmers enjoy on water utilization, seasonal paddy storage costs at TZS 1000 (in comparison to TZS 2000 for non-members) and milling machine priority. The only similarity between the two categories of farmers (members and non-members) is that they both receive market news and trends on an online platform.

“One of the responsibilities that I have been tasked with by Rikolto is to create an awareness of the membership benefits to the reluctant non-member farmers so as thy can be easily facilitated by the cooperative,”

Edward Rikolto’s Business Development Consultant at Uwamale Cooperative

Membership has been made affordable through a one-off payment of TZS 10,000, to be finalized within one year and with that farmers also get 5 shares within the cooperative. It’s a win-win situation that David is hopeful farmers will buy into once aware.

Consulting, exchanges and learning journeys

Rikolto has worked with the cooperative and held trainings with farmers that highlighted post-harvest handling knowledge – placement, storage, and packaging of produce which saw reductions in the losses. It has also held sensitization and capacity building workshops about proper canal construction to avoid water wastage for sustainable rice production.

It also facilitated Uwamale cooperative farmers for a 3-day benchmarking trip to Kahama district so they could learn from Kahama’s already established and improved production process. The knowledge exchange trip equipped farmers with plot preparation skills and a chance to see firsthand how land can be put to maximum use. The demonstration plots showcased different products on the market and helped farmers to make informed decisions on what inputs to buy.

To highlight the issue of food safety, Rikolto has been vigilant about pesticide application and handling for rice farmers and safe storage at home. They are thankful to Rikolto, who came in and understood the business model, provided training of Good Agricultural Practices, business knowledge and supported the cooperative.

With the above interventions, Uwamale farmers have seen a progressive paddy production trend from 5 sacks per acre, to 25 and most recently, 40 bags per acre in seasonal harvests. The numbers are encouraging, and the board of directors and overall cooperative’s management is looking beyond the local market to regional and the Ethiopian markets as well. They also hope to cut out the middleman and create a direct relationship with the buyer.

Together with Uwamale management, Edward has also been able to involve the Arumeru local government in some of the initiatives such as the construction of the irrigation canal and foster prospects to work with the district‘s irrigation office. Since his tenure with Uwamale while being supported Rikolto, the following have been implemented: -

  • A business plan has been developed complete with budget estimations and marketing strategy to help farmers forecast production and tally it to available markets

  • Rebranding of Uwamale cooperative is undergoing to promote a positive image and garner publicity for the cooperative at agricultural tradeshows

  • An online platform in form of a website is also being worked upon so that farmer databases are consolidated. This ICT initiative will also be made accessible to farmers to access news and insights on the market

  • A scope of work for each board member has been stipulated to avoid duplication of roles and streamline the members with specific responsibilities

  • The cooperative’s structure has also been reviewed and codes of conduct drawn to guide the new management and outline policies for different departments.

  • The prior cash and receipt financial management has been repealed and replaced with a banking system.

  • Linkages to input suppliers such as YARA for the fertilizer and financial institutions such as TADB.

Along with Rikolto’s trainings have fostered teamwork, and efficiency within the cooperative.

“Since Rikolto’s intervention, farmers are now hopeful that Uwamale can act as a hub for them to learn, grow and improve their farming skills,”

Boaz says Uwamale’s Chairman

Khadija poses in her rice field at Uwamale. Picture by : Sandra Kabongoyi

Khadija Munyanyembe, a 57 year old farmer and a board member for Uwamale Cooperative has been farming for the last twenty years mainly maize and paddy. “I was harvesting about nine to ten bags of paddy per acre, per year. That has immensely changed especially with the Wai Wai seeds I am now using and I am harvesting 25 to 30 bags per season,” she says proudly.

To ensure efficiency, Rikolto appointed Dr. Mugase, an agricultural consultant to assist farmers with Quality Management Systems (QMS) and advise on manure and fertilizer application, pesticide handling and application. These interventions have been substantial improving lifestyles for members of the cooperative such as Khadija, a mother of four children, three daughters and one son. She has been able to build a new house, put her children through school, improve her lifestyle and diversify her farming to include livestock as well.

Future Prospects

The management has ambitions to brand and package their produce after milling and grading so to reduce counterfeited rice – a challenge at the moment, open an on sight selling point for it, a step that will complete the value chain process from production to consumption.

The Chairman of Uwamale, Boaz, standing amidst rice fields in Arumeru. Picture by : Sandra Kabongoyi

To address the issue of transparency, Uwamale hopes to hold Annual General Meetings (AGM) where both internal and external stakeholders will be invited and a presentation of the cooperative’s operations made.

For sustainable rice production, the cooperative would like to add value to paddy husks and turn into charcoal for home cooking purposes.

“Turning rice paddy husks into charcoal will have an environmental impact and limit deforestation,”

Boaz Uwamale cooperative chairman