ZOMBO. Farmers in Nebbi, Pawach, Zombo and parts of Arua district are embracing chia growing through the West Nile Farmers Agri-Business Enhancement Initiative (WENFABEI).
WENFABEI has this season distributed 12,000metric tons of chia seeds to over 8,000 farmers registered under the organization and over 3.4 million metric tons of chia harvest valued at shs14 to15 billion is projected this season.
The office of the President also seeks to popularize chia, the high valued but little known crop in the region.
While on a fact-finding visit to the chia farmers on Monday, a team from the President’s office led by Mr Moses Mpanga, the Director Marketing under the popular Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) assured the farmers of the steady market and better price for their chia.
The team comprising of an investor and agronomist told farmers that they were impressed by what they saw on ground, adding that the region has the potential to out-compete the rest in chia production.
Mpanga told the farmers that the demand for Ugandan chia stands at 100,000 metric tons in the World Market hence the need to scale up production in order to ensure a stable supply.
He said currently, Uganda is producing only 6,000 metric tons of chia which is still far below what the international market wants.
When asked to give an approximate price figure per kilogram, Mpanga said they are still in negotiations with the chia buyers and the result of the negotiation would be communicated to the farmers as early as possible.
He, however, observed that Ugandan chia farmers have got a challenge of quality enhancement along the value chain which must be observed as the government and other development partners plan to offer logistical support like threshing machines and access to credit facilities among others.
“There is a challenge of post-harvest handling which we are looking into so that our farmers produce the best chia and we are going to be best chia producing countries,” Mpanga promised.
Mr Collins Oyirwoth, the chairman WENFABEI observed that unlike other crops, the market for chia is 100 per cent guaranteed and the government is committed to promoting chia growing in the region.
“There is no question about the market, what we should be thinking about now is to scale up production as much as we can,” he said.
Mr Wilfrord Ongeyowun, the programs supervisor WENFABEI said apart from its monetary value, chia is food and medicinal and above all, easy to grow as it is a fast-maturing crop that is crucial in poverty eradication.
“Research shows that chia is medicinal and effective in curing most of the ailments but it is also easy to grow because it is a weed that kills other weeds and takes only 3 months to mature,” Ongeyowun said.
Mr Denis Ocwia, the coordinator WENFABEI said there are plans to initiate a savings and credit cooperative organization (SACCO) dedicated to the farmers so that their financial services are easily accessible.
He urged the farmers to form groups in order to attract support from both government and development partners.
Rev. John Ongeyowun, a farmer from Nenkuwengi village in Akaa sub-county said he hopes to reap big from his 6 acres of chia after he got skills from the team that came from the President’s office.
He said they were worried about the price for chia but they have been impressed because of the assurance of better price even though there is no clear figure as per now.