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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Contract Farming, Smallholders and Commercialization of Agriculture in Uganda: The Case of Sorghum, Sunflower, and Rice Contract Farming Schemes.


Contract farming has expanded in Uganda due to the promotional efforts of various actors: private, public, and/or international aid agencies. While motives for promoting contract farming may vary by actor, it is argued in this study that contract farming is crucial in the commercialization of smallholder agriculture and hence, poverty reduction in Uganda. However, smallholder farmers in Uganda have reportedly experienced some contractual problems when dealing with large agribusiness firms, resulting in them giving up contract farming. Similarly, agribusinesses have also reportedly encountered some contractual problems when dealing with some smallholder farmers that could have led to the exclusion of the latter from contract farming. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to examine the role of contract farming in the commercialization of smallholder agriculture in Uganda by using sunflower, sorghum, and rice contract schemes as case studies. Specifically, the study sought to characterize the sorghum, sunflower, and rice contract schemes as well as identify benefits and problems associated with them. Primary data were collected by a combined use of survey and informal interview methods. A survey of both contracted and non contracted farmers was conducted in Soroti District (Sorghum), Apac District (Sunflower), and Bugiri District (Rice). Informal interviews were held with agribusiness firms (Nile Breweries Limited, Mukwano Industries, and Tilda (U) Limited), their agents, and support organizations. Data were then analyzed using descriptive statistics and non parametric tests (Chi-square and F-tests). While most of the findings from this study are general in nature, some of them are idiosyncratic to the case studies investigated. It was generally found contract farming contributed a great deal to the commercialization of smallholder agriculture in Uganda, especially in the sorghum (Epuripur) and sunflower sub-sectors. While agribusinesses obtained assured supply of raw materials for their processing needs, smallholder farmers on the other hand had access to critical inputs such as improved seeds and extension services, in addition to access to a guaranteed market for their produce. However, there were still some challenges in the organization and operation of the contract farming schemes. Thus, both agribusinesses and policy makers have separate roles to play in making sure contract farming is properly nurtured for the benefit of smallholder farmers in Uganda.

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