Ugandan farmers are set to smile big to the market after Nile Breweries Ltd has assured them of the market for their cassava harvest.  Uganda’s beer market leader has fully entered a partnership with the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) to boost commercial cassava production in different parts of the country. Signing a memorandum of understanding between the two entities recently, Theunis Coetzee, the Agriculture Services Manager at NBL assured NARO that the company intends to support farmers scale production but also ensure quality varieties of cassava are produced.

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“Nile Breweries will support transfer and dissemination of agricultural research and development technologies from NARO to the farming communities and value chains,” said Theunis Coetzee

Theunis further revealed that NBL was considering production from cassava as it has numerous health advantages compared to other raw materials. Saying Cassava contains much energy, natural sugars which can be used as sugar additives to replace addition of sugar in the beer.

The signing event that was held at Namulonge Agriculture Research Institute was witnessed by various government leaders and key researchers.

Speaking at the event, Dr Ambrose Agona , the NARO director General said the agricultural agency will extend agricultural research technology to local farmers supplying raw materials used in beer production.

“The benefit of the partnership is that we can test the new varieties that will possibly be commercialized before they are available on the market. This will address the need to improve the quality and quantity of raw materials (cassava), whose demand is expected to increase as Nile Breweries focuses on turning it into one of their major raw materials,” said Dr Agona.

The NARO team, led by Dr Agona, handed four cassava varieties to NBL for testing in the field.

In the past years, cassava has been produced in Uganda specifically for food as well as distillation of ethanol. The 5 year partnership is expected to boost cassava production from 6 metric tonnes per hectare to 50 or 25 metric tonnes per hectare.

“Production of beer using local materials will lead to the creation of employment, low cost of production as well as increased production whereby in case we produce excess beers, we shall export the rest to our neighboring countries,” added Dr Agona.

The partnership with NARO is a continuation of NBL’s commitment to local sourcing and improving the livelihoods of Ugandan Farmers. It uses materials cassava, barley, and sorghum. With the current local sourcing at 98%, annually, NBL purchases around US$23M worth of produce from local farmers. It plans to spend at least US$11K annually to research on more productive cassava varieties.

NBL currently invests up to UGX795M annually to upskill, connect and financially empower our farmers.

“We have deployed crop protection pilots to reduce farmer risk, we expect to have 6,500 farmers skilled in crop management protocols, and we have close to 3,000 farmers empowered with mobile phones and 4,400 financially empowered through input loans and crop insurance in collaboration with Stanbic,” NBL MD David Valencia recently revealed during NBL’s Economic Forum held in Kampala last month.

NBL spends at least Ush 52bn on Ugandan farmers (NKC African Economics report 2020). According to the report, 89% of NBL-supplying farmers reported that their quality of life had improved and indeed Sorghum farming households supplying NBL reported to have doubled their income. NBL agriculture sustainability goal is to have 100% of its direct farmers skilled, connected, and financially empowered by 2025 though all engagements with farmers are geared towards those 3 aspects.

Farmers Speak Out:

Farmers have welcomed the development at the national research organization, according to Daphine Nankya the program manager at Alliance for Farmer Organizations in Uganda (AFAD) this was a long-overdue initiative as many farmers had lost interest in growing cassava because of its low market absorption and limited value addition options that tap the potential Cassava has.

“ We have been pushing for value addition for smallholder farmers, the interest NBL has now as a big player is the best as we shall push our farmers to grow high-value crops and with great potential for transforming farmers.” Adds Nankya

Kaganaga John a cassava farmer with kikandwa farmers association in Mityana, said Nile breweries should work with NARO to avail free improved resistant varieties to Farmers and establish a broad out-grower system.

“This is very welcome, cassava can grow anywhere and withstand climate problems, but we want quick maturing and high yielding varieties to be accessed by Farmers.

John Butamanya, the chairperson Nakasongola District Farmers Association said Nile breweries should not invest in research but go further to support extension and advisory services for cassava farmers, this will go a long way to ensure production happens for increased productivity. “ many farmers in my district are engaged in cassava because we are a cattle corridor, but we lack good advice, good inputs and the market frustrations have been a bigger factor” added Butamanya