The role of the smallholder farmer groups on production, processing and marketing of maize: a case study of Hoima district, Uganda
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Maize farmers in Hoima District have formed groups to overcome the challenges of low production, processing and marketing of maize due to lack of adequate extension support, inadequacy of transport facilities, limited access to inputs and output market. However, studies have shown that even when the farmers form groups, the challenges that farmers face as individuals continue to be experienced in their farmer groups. The challenges listed if left unaddressed, have the potential of causing more decline in maize productivity, incomes and consequently food insecurity. To come up with improved status of maize productivity and marketing among the members of the farmer groups, the study examined the role of farmer groups in production, processing and marketing of maize in Hoima District. The major objective was to examine the role of the participating members and further to establish the challenges faced so that strategies for better performance are suggested. Specifically, the study set out to find out the roles of smallholder farmer groups in production, processing and marketing of maize; identify the factors that enable smallholder farmer groups to improve the marketing of maize produce; and identify the challenges faced by smallholder farmer groups in a bid to uplift output, food security and incomes. A cross sectional survey design was adopted. Data were collected from the members of 4 selected farmer groups, Hoima District Farmers‘ Association and Hoima District Local Government Production and Marketing Officials giving a sample size of 140 respondents. The respondents were selected using simple random and purposive sampling techniques. Questionnaires, interview guide, Observation Guide, Focus Group Discussion guide and Documentary review checklist were used to collect data from the study sites. Qualitative data were presented using narrative text and verbatim quotations. The study findings indicated that to a great extent, the farmer groups have boosted the productivity of maize among farmers. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics (percentages and means); inferential statistics were correlation and chi-square tests. Majority of the farmers agreed that their group maize production increased per season to 2 metric tonnes from 1 tonne per individual farmer. Chi- square result shown in Table 4.8 obtained was =19.379 df= 2, p=.000, meaning that there was a significant relationship between membership in farmer‘s group and improved marketing of maize produced. Table 4.5 shows that the correlation coefficient for group factors and maize yield was r= .643* p=0.012<0.05 meaning that there was a positive correlation between farmer group factors and maize yields The group factors that were behind the boost included joint planning, access to better markets because of collective bargaining power, adoption of better and improved maize varieties such as the latest Longe 11 and collaborative relationships with international donor agencies such as Abi-Trust and United States Agency for International Development. These have not only boosted farmer skills through training but have also linked the farmer groups to potential markets. It was also found out the success registered by the farmers was in accessing better markets, improved production and indirect benefits from networking with international organizations. Nevertheless, there were a series of structural and group-based challenges such as poor leadership hampering the effective performance of the farmers groups. The study concluded that farmer groups have boosted maize production in Hoima District. The study recommended the need for provision of extension services to all the farmer groups; need by the government to upgrade the feeder roads in rural areas; and the need for the government to engage monitoring committees at the District and sub county levels to protect the farmers from being cheated by seed dealers and others.