Kampala — In a dramatic turnaround, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced it will begin buying food grown by small-scale farmers in Acholi, a region where as recently as two years ago many people relied on WFP food assistance.
WFP has signed a contract to buy 154 metric tons of maize from grain traders in Gulu district. This marks WFP's first purchase of food in Acholi, a region that heavily depended on WFP relief assistance in the worst years of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency.
"This is a welcome reversal of events. WFP is happy to help the Acholi people graduate from dependency to becoming productive again, and to reaping quality grain," said WFP Country Director Sory Ouane.
Ouane said the traders will supply the 154 tons of grain through WFP's 6,000 metric-ton-capacity licensed warehouse near Gulu town. The food will be used in WFP's operations in Karamoja, Ouane said.
With the end of displacement in northern Uganda, WFP has changed its approach, moving from emergency assistance to initiatives that help address the underlying causes of hunger and poverty in the region.
WFP has shut down its relief food warehouses in Acholi and is instead setting up modern grain warehouses, in which smallholder farmer groups and medium-scale traders can process and store their grain for sale to quality oriented buyers in the East African region. On top of the warehouse investments, WFP is training farmer groups in agri-business and in post-harvest management in order for members to increase their productivity and incomes.
WFP's agriculture and market support programme, which includes the Purchase for Progress initiative known as P4P, is funded in 2012 by the United States and German governments and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The programme aims to enable the smallholder groups and traders to sell food to commercial buyers as well as to WFP. So far this year, smallholder farmer groups and traders in northern Uganda have earned over US$ 200,000 trading through warehouses established by WFP.
WFP operates in line with the National Development Plan and the Ministry of Agriculture's Development Strategy and Investment Plan. WFP has signed a Joint Action Agreement with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to support smallholder farmer groups and traders.