A World Food Programme effort to wean people in northern Uganda off food aid has run into serious trouble. Many recipients of food aid who had instead been handed contracts to supply food to WFP have failed to meet the required standards.
WFP had offered formerly displaced persons contracts to supply maize grain but some are now struggling to meet its quality standards. One of them, Christopher Odong, a farmer in Laminadera village, said he had harvested three and a half tonnes of maize but WFP could not buy the 'poor quality' grain.
"The restrictions are very difficult ... they rejected my maize because they say there are weevils in it," he said.
He, however, said he had met other standards such as the maize grade, moisture content and dryness. WFP country director Sory Ouane said farmers needed more support to meet its standards.
"There are many challenges but we are trying to work with the government and other chief players to overcome them. WFP has played its role and will continue to support them," he said
A lecturer at Gulu University, Walter Odong, said farmers could be helped more. On the surface it appears that farmers cannot meet this demand ... but they can produce enough quantity and quality and even meet the international standard that WFP needs," he said.
Odong advised farmers to either produce in bulk as individual farmers or use the collection centres. "World Food Programme will not go to one farmer to pick one basin of maize," he added.
Farmers like Samuel Ojok from Lureko in Nwoya district said they are keen on the WFP offer because it pays better than the local market.
"We don't have a proper market; so, those people who come from Gulu, Anaka and other sub- counties bully us and cheat us. But if the WFP initiative comes, it will really help," he said.