Eight farmer groups are smiling their way to the bank after winning at least Shs 45 million in innovation awards sponsored by Uganda Development Bank Limited (UDB).
The competition dubbed I-Growth Accelerator 2017, whose aim was to focus on supporting commercialisation of local start-ups and stimulating a culture of innovation in Uganda, attracted 400 groups especially those adding value to agricultural produce.
Gudie Leisure Farm that manufactures Orgapesticide, a natural fertiliser, was the overall winner of the awards held last evening at Hotel Africana; they walked away with Shs 25 million. Hybrid hey machine, makers of a machine that cuts and stores animal hey for as long as nine months, came second and took home Shs 10 million.
Ecosmart Pad, makers of reusable sanitary towels, came third and won Shs 5 million. Another five winners each walked away with Shs I million.
Anja de Feijter, the executive director of Agribusiness Support Center (ADC), who was one of the judges, said it is apparent that government and all stakeholders pay keen attention to agriculture because of its vital contribution to the country's social economic development. She said ADC's new agenda is to support smart solutions of making farmers bankable and self-sufficient.
"ADC's objective is to train farmers in financial literacy, governance and market skills considering the poor market information, low literacy levels, poor business skills, poor production and marketing arrangements which contribute also to defaulting when they are given loans," Anja said.
She said rural farmers find it difficult to access credit from commercial banks because of their low levels of financial literacy coupled with commercial banks that often consider them a high-risk group. She said without access to finance, it is difficult for rural farmers to expand their businesses, let alone venture into new profitable enterprises.
"ADC's role is to make the farmers ready through the important trainings by a team of experienced business advisors in different regions of Uganda in a given period and then link them to financial institutions and markets."
Gabriel Ajedra, the state minister for finance who represented the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, called on youths to embrace agriculture and focus on innovation if the country's main source of employment is to develop.
He said, as government, they will continue supporting such innovations by providing funding. He hailed UDB for looking out to such innovators and giving them financial assistance and also loans at lower interest rates of 12 percent as opposed to the more than 20 per cent that commercial banks give.
The awards were organised in partnership with Resilient Africa Network (RAN Lab).