Progress in Grain Processing for StepUp Farmers

The Apala Farmers’ Collective has gone from strength to strength following the installation of a maize mill.

During 2018, IRT were able to fund a grain store and drying area for nine communities in Okwangole Parish in Lira, northern Uganda.  The communities taking part were rural returnee farmers who had participated in our StepUp scheme following returning to their villages after the brutal devastation of The Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Apala Cooperative in 2018, posing on the land they collectively saved and purchased for the grain mill before its construction

These farmers had transformed their lives, from surviving on one meal a day to running successful farms, all through participating in StepUp. When the grain store was built in 2018, the farmers in the Okwangole region formed The Apala Collective, with the intention of working together to store and sell produce in bulk to buyers, which they have been doing ever since.

The thriving grain store after construction; The farmers bulk and sell their produce.

The Apala Collective were thrilled with the grain store, but knew they could increase their profits even further through the installation of a maize mill. IRT were able to fund this during 2020, and the maize mill was built and installed in just under a month, with StepUp participants contributing their time and labour to help.

A customer sorts her maize using a sieve, after which the maize will be hurled and milled. This improves the quality of the ‘posho’ – processed maize.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the entrepreneurial farmers have hit the ground running since the installation of a maize hurler and grain processing machine at the grain store. The site is now a fully-fledged hub where farmers can store, dry, bulk and process grains such as maize, millet, sorghum and cassava. Customers can also bring their own grains and pay to process them at the mill.  

As part of their training, the machine operators carefully observe the technician as he runs the hurler.

Interviews were held for the position of machine operators, and the successful candidates have now completed their training and are able to operate the processing machine with ease. Apala Cooperative is now proud to own the best maize machine in the Okwangole area! The increased profits made from selling processed maize (known locally as ‘posho’) means the farmers have increased their savings, which they use towards making home and farm improvements, and, vitally, sending their children to school.

Board members of the Apala Cooperative ran interviews for machine operator positions.

This is a fantastic example of how agricultural training, long-term investment and hard-work can come together to create sustainable, long-term solutions to poverty. IRT continue to run StepUp alongside our partners on the ground, OCA, every year due to its proven track record of increasing self-sufficiency and access to education, provision of financial stability for participants and improvement of health and sanitation for returnee farmers. All StepUp projects and programmes are designed based on a participatory approach whereby all stakeholders are involved right from problem identification, project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

Hellen checks how her and her husband’s soya beans are doing. Hellen is the Treasurer for The Apala Cooperative. She tell us, “We are expecting a good harvest which we will keep for bulking”.