Enhancing Women’s Participation in Uganda and Kenya
The grain sector is probably the most important sub-sector within the agricultural sector. Maize, wheat, rice and pulses are by far the most important food commodities in East Africa. Production of these food staples varies greatly from country to country, creating natural opportunities for trade between East African countries based on comparative advantages and climatic conditions for crop cultivation.
The Intra-regional Trade Facility (IRTF), an EAC-GIZ cooperation programme initiative, supports the EACG project “Enhancing Women’s Participation in Cross-Border Grain Trade” to enable women grain traders in Uganda and Kenya to overcome the informal and unstructured nature of the way they conduct their business and help them to become part of a structured commodity trading system that will facilitate trade in large volumes of good quality grain.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted the cross-border trade among EAC countries significantly, with dire consequences for food security in the region: slow border crossing due to delays at borders, long queues of trucks and tension between countries, resulting, for example, from varying requirements of COVID19 testing for truck drivers, allegations of harassment and eventually freezing the movement of goods across borders including grain produce.
More so, it was noted that during the first quarter of 2020, cross-border trade of maize in the EAC dropped by 70% compared to the preceding quarter due to COVID19 restrictions. Overall cross-border trade dropped by 19% between the last quarter of 2019 and the 1st quarter of 2020.
Trade restrictions have disrupted agricultural input supply chains, which has subsequently pushed up prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and farm equipment. Kenya, where the COVID-19 outbreak coincided with the planting season, has been especially hard hit. Fortunately, Uganda and Tanzania, who are both major exporters of grain in the region, had already completed their planting seasons at the time of the outbreak and were less affected.
Many farmers had no access to their markets due to restricted movement measures imposed by governments. This has increased post-harvest losses as they were unable to sell their produce and did not have proper storage facilities to keep it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light various challenges along the grain sector value chain, from farmers to traders and consumers. This, however, brings forth an opportunity to accelerate change and make long-lasting changes to the way the grain sector operates, promotes and implements structured grain trade. It might enable the region to absorb shocks in the market better and be well prepared when it comes to dealing with a crisis, be it national or global. The project contributes to this goal in a number of ways.
Make women grain entrepreneurs aware of the opportunities in trade between Uganda and Kenya
25 beneficiaries (15 small and medium businesses and 10 farmers’ groups) were identified and their level of operations defined. The project organised them into farmer-operated Grain Trade Business Hubs (G-Hubs) to enable them to link to markets, farm inputs and services. These SMEs and farmers’ groups represent a total of 16,236 members. The project further compiled the information on the stocks these groups have available and created catalogues to inform buyers and sellers. The catalogue was widely disseminated among all stakeholders involved.
The project kept all beneficiaries informed through weekly updates about the situation at the borders and within the country to enable them to make informed trade decisions.
Train women-led SMES and farmers’ organisations on the requirements for trading between Uganda and Kenya
Trainings on grains and standards and the use of improved post-harvest technologies were successfully carried out for a total of 78 participants, representing about 6,700 farmers from across Uganda. This field training addressed women-led farmer organisations and aimed at improved post-harvest handling and storage of grains, learning how to determine grain grades and apply standards. Participants were supported to deliver quality grains that meet the harmonised East African Community (EAC) standards for cereals and pulses. In addition, training on the opportunities and challenges of cross-border trade also started, and a manual on international trade processes and procedures for the use in trainings and as a general reference was developed.
Facilitate contacts between women-led SMEs and farmers’ organisations from Uganda and grain buyers from Kenya
Under this activity, EAGC facilitated trade contracts for millet and soya beans worth USD 127,927 between buyers from Kenya and suppliers from Uganda. Suppliers from Uganda underwent training courses on quality management, grain grading and aflatoxin infestation to improve the quality of grain provided.
Teach women grain traders about available sources of finance how to apply for them
In an effort to make women-led SMEs and farmer organisations aware of the financing products available from banks and other financial institutions, seven financial institutions and six SMEs met to engage in discussions on available financing options as well as limitations to access to finance. Stanbic Bank, for example, offers a number of products under the heading of Agri-Lending and is piloting lending services through structured trade commodity financing as well a pilot digital loans scheme for small-hold farmers. EAGC is analysing what its beneficiaries need in order to be eligible for possible financing.
Recommendations to EAC Policy Makers
During the first and second quarter of the project implementation, EAGC has identified two priority policy recommendations for the grain sector in East Africa to be addressed by decision makers in the EAC:
1. The East African Grain Council recommends to the EAC Partner States to remove taxes on post-harvest handling of goods and equipment at EAC level, this is through the CET review process currently ongoing and at national level, this is through engagements in the budget formulation process.
2. The East African Grain Council recommends to the EAC Partner States to remove trade restrictions for cross border grain traders during the Covid-19 crisis.