“There is a lot about smallholder cocoa farmers that we don’t fully know. Most importantly we don’t know about the prevalence of farm management practices that influence yield and quality of cocoa” says Julius Mumbere-manager of Bunyoro Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited in Kagadi town.
Today we are living in the digital age where technology is facilitating the collection of myriads of data, and further blurring the line between information analysis, dissemination, and use. However, glaring information gaps continue to exist in market systems in developing economies.
Farm management practices of smallholder farmers is just one of many important information needs that farmer organizations such as Bunyoro Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited need to remain competitive and meet their obligations to the cooperative members.
Julius is very much aware of the disadvantages of not knowing. He says, “As a farmer organization our goal is to do business for the benefit of our members. However, this is a challenge because often the farm management practices of our members are unharmonious with good agronomic practices that ensure high yield, … In the end, both the farmer and cooperative suffer because what reaches the market is of very low quantity and quality, therefore what ends up reaching the farmer’s pocket is very little.”
Swisscontact through the Dynamic Markets for Farmers - Sustainable Cocoa and Honey project, in collaboration with key implementing partners including businesses and farmer organizations, is undertaking profiling of smallholder farmers to digitize smallholder farmer information to facilitate access to improved services and markets.
The overall goal of the project is to increase the incomes and livelihoods of 25,900 smallholder cocoa farmers and beekeepers (direct and indirect) in Uganda by promoting commercialization and improving smallholder farmers’ capacities to produce and market high-quality, traceable, certified and conventional cocoa beans and honey.
Over 2,800 smallholder beekeepers have so far been successfully profiled in the district of Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, and Rubirizi in collaboration with Delta Bees Ltd and Ntwetwe Beekeepers Cooperative Society.
In September, profiling of smallholder cocoa farmers in Kagadi district kicked off with the training of 18 data collectors. Swisscontact facilitated the training and provided technical support in data collection and management, while Bunyoro Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited mobilized data collectors as well as the smallholder farmers.
As part of the profiling, information collected includes farm size and yield, farm certification status, agronomic practices, post-harvest handling, gender roles related to farm management, and sales information among others.
Profiling information will be used by the project staff and implementing partners to facilitate access to improved inputs, extension, and markets that will enable 10,400 direct beneficiaries to increase production resulting in an income increase of CHF 4,609,424 in 4 years.
For farmer organizations like Bunyoro Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited, access to digitized information on smallholder farmers is a new concept, but one which will strengthen the capacities of farmer organizations and farmers. “Understanding what our farmers are doing will give us a better sense of their needs and help us provide better services in terms of markets, lobbying the local government and other stakeholders, providing targeted extension services and inputs”, says Julius.