New Smart Agricultural Program to Benefit 200,000 Farmers

BY K D SEBUNYA: A total of up to 200,000 small scale farmers, will be direct beneficiaries of the Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) resilience and smart agricultural programs as climate change effects hasten.

The two programs, Green Agrifood System Program (GRASP) under aBi Development Ltd and Accelerating Adoption of Green and Inclusive Finance (AAGIF), which are worth 66.8 billion shillings, are managed under aBi Finance Ltd. The funds have been obtained from the European Union, and the Royal Danish government.

The programs which are to run under a five-year business plan to drive green, inclusive economic transformation and combat climate crisis, are a renewed commitment by aBi to accessible and inclusive funding to small-holder farmers, through affordable loans, from banks with products specifically designed for agriculture.

Speaking at the launch of the program in Munyonyo, the chief guest , Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), represented at the launch by Dr. Henry Nakalaet Opolot, the Commissioner Extension and Skills Management Services, reiterated that aBi is directly supporting the government’s priorities and policies and aligned with the country’s strategic direction as guided by Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan III.

Dr. Opolot observed that while the agricultural sector is a crucial driver of Uganda’s transformation and a solution to youth unemployment, it will not yield the expected results without heavy investment in climate resilience and adaptation strategies for small and large-scale farmers.

At the same event, Moses Nyabila, the Chief Executive Officer of aBi Development Ltd, said the five-year program will invest 66.8 billion Shillings to support farmers and agribusinesses in building capacity to adapt to climate change and continue productive activities.

Over the strategic period from 2019 to 2023, aBi extended support to more than 50 private sector entities, reaching an impressive 790,000 farmers. This concerted effort resulted in 12,088 jobs and a staggering net income exceeding 138 billion Shillings.

“The support for GRASP finds its roots in its direct relevance to “The World We Share,” addressing the climate crisis by empowering farmers to adapt. It solidifies aBi’s role as a robust partner for private-sector agricultural business development, bridging the gap between producers and markets. Furthermore, it seamlessly aligns with the Uganda Country Strategic Framework 2023-2027, focusing on promoting inclusive green economic transformation, a shared goal with the Government of Uganda and the European Union,” Nyabila explained.

Mona Muguma-Ssebuliba, the Chief Executive Officer of aBi Finance Ltd, added that despite aBiF’s efforts to empower the agricultural value chain in Uganda through loans, guarantees and business development services in the last 15 years, the funding gap in the agricultural ecosystem remains significantly high with a paltry 10% of Ugandan firms accessing loans.

“This new programme (Accelerating Adoption of Green and Inclusive Finance) will add a Ushs11billion investment to empower the often-overlooked segments of society: youth, women, and refugees, enabling them to build thriving agribusinesses and improve their livelihoods. aBi Finance’s interventions have created over 300,000 jobs, generated an additional income of US$154m for beneficiaries, impacted 2.2m farmers (70% of whom are women), and contributed US$5m in value through green loans,” says Muguma-Ssebuliba.

While appreciating the value of Public-Private Partnerships in strengthening the agricultural value chain in Uganda, Felix Okoboi, the Board Chairperson of aBi Development & Finance, appreciated the Government of Uganda, the European Union and the Royal Danish Embassy for the unwavering support and commitment to supporting a private sector-driven Ugandan agriculture which is green and inclusive.

“During UPSIDE, aBi Finance transitioned from a company limited by guarantee to a company limited by shares and in 2022, on boarded two shareholders, the Investment Fund for Developing Countries and the European Union, alongside the Royal Danish Embassy to facilitate an increase in access of serviceable green financing to smallholder farmers and agribusinesses,” he added.

The launch of the two new programs was a precursor to the closeout of yet another successful project: the Uganda Program for Sustainable and Inclusive Development of the Economy (UPSIDE) program that started in 2019, supporting over 200,000 farmers, 50% of whom are women achieve resilience to climate change through expanded and inclusive green agri-food system

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