Sweetpotato farmers from Busoga region in Uganda form a cooperative for sustainable production

Sweetpotato farmers have typically sourced planting materials from their own previous seasons’ gardens, or from neighbors and relatives without regard for seed quality and age. Under the local farming practices, many vines are planted in the same spot resulting in competition for resources and thus lower yields obtained estimated at only 4 ton/ha/year compared to a potential yield of 14 ton/ha/year.

Sweetpotato Genetic Advances and Innovative Seed Systems (SweetGAINs) is an ambitious three-year project aimed at increasing access to improved sweetpotato varieties and enhancing seed delivery systems through streamlined, gender-responsive, and well-managed sweetpotato breeding programs across Africa.

Through the project, the use of clean planting materials and the implementation of good agronomic practices are promoted to sweetpotato farmers in the Busoga region. This is done through the establishment of both demonstration plots as learning sites for farmers, and community screenhouses as sources of market-preferred, basic, clean planting material that is closer to the farming community. This has resulted in increased capacity to produce clean seed and marketable sweetpotato roots for sale.

With the enhanced capacity of sweetpotato farmers to produce clean seed of market-preferred varieties, there is subsequently improved availability of clean seed in the community across the Busoga region and neighboring areas. As a result, sweetpotato root production and productivity have also increased, thus boosting the incomes and livelihoods of the rural farmers.

Therefore, to ensure sustainability and to fully benefit from the increased sales of both sweetpotato seed (vines) and roots, sweetpotato farmers in the Busoga region have formed an association, named ‘Busoga commercial seed producers and marketing cooperative (BUSECO)’, which is now fully registered with the Government of Uganda with offices in Kamuli Municipality, near the Kamuli district headquarters.

BUSECO executive members being presented with registration certificates and bylaws

BUSECO was formed in April 2022 with an initial membership of 32 individuals. By the time of its first annual general meeting (AGM) in September 2022, membership had grown to 45 fully registered members from different districts of the Busoga region, mainly Iganga, Buyende and Kamuli.

Members of BUSECO held their first AGM on 9 September 2022 at Sande Kyemba Hotel in Kamuli town to elect executive committee members. During the AGM, members of BUSECO were presented with their registration certificates by the district commercial officers of Kamuli and Buyende districts. In addition, a substantive executive committee for the cooperative was formed, consisting of five members, and other support committees were elected. The committees were mandated to mobilize financial resources for BUSECO, encourage new members to join cooperative, ensure the availability of a market for the members’ products and to promote value addition in the sweetpotato value chain for better prices and market value. All members are responsible for increased production.

During the AGM, representatives from different organizations were present. These included the International Potato Center (CIP), Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO), the Bugaya Area Enterprise Cooperative, the Greater Busoga Sugarcane Cooperative Union, and local governments from Kamuli and Buyende districts. These organizations pledged partnerships and support to BUSECO.

Compiled by Tenywa Milton