New Letter


“Changing the present and opening the door to a better and more secure future.”
“It is a platitude of development discourse that it is better to teach people to fish than to give them fish to eat. But a trans-formative and sustainable development agenda sets the bar higher than this, addressing the whole context in which people fish, how they fish and what they fish for. It helps them fish today in a way that will also ensure that there will be fish to be caught tomorrow, and a thousand days in the future.”

These statements summarize the agricultural strategy that Mayana Ltd has adopted the last three years in empowering rural farmers in Uganda.

Eighty percent of Uganda’s 16.5 million-strong workforce relies on agricultural productivity for its livelihood. But perhaps ironically, this workforce also comprises 90 percent of the rural poor. They are subsistence farmers, providing 70 percent of the country’s marketed produce but, for the most part, are barely producing enough income for their families to survive, much less prosper.

Many of these smallholders are net buyers of food, producing what they can for personal consumption and purchasing the remainder. Making the situation worse, these smallholder farmers, who often lack access to markets, modern agricultural technologies and training are responsible for feeding a population that is growing more than 3.2 percent annually.

According to Mr. Samir Pandya, the managing director of Mayana Ltd, obstacles to sustainable rural transformation cannot be overcome by simply teaching smallholders to farm better. But rather consider lucrative options in the farming as a way of life, beginning in the half-light before dawn and encompassing the whole context of a farmer’s life. He observed that for agricultural development to be sustainable, financially and otherwise – the whole system and its context must be taken into account and addressed.

In this regard, since 2009, Mayana employed a competitive farming strategy in chili farming with rural farmers in Uganda. Initially planted as a buffer crop burned at the edges of fields to ward off intruding animals such as baboons and elephants Mayana has since changed it to become the cornerstone of liberating farmers from income poverty through provision of sound agricultural knowledge, assured market and tools they need to engage in chili farming for handsome returns.

Consequently, small-scale farmers are linked to a high-value market for bird’s eye, Bhut jholak, jalapero, and Hot pepper upgrading their farmer’s stance. Besides providing market, technical guidance, professional expertise and knowledge is also provided to sustain the prospects for further engagement in this nontraditional cash crops.

From planting to harvest, farmers who are involved with Mayana are guided to be more successful. We provide them with a service constituting proactive forward and backward linkages. This will in the long run provide means of transformation - not just changing the outcome, but changing the context – changing the present, and opening the door to a better and more secure future.

The Ugandan Bird’s Eye Chili (Capsicum frutescens) variety that Mayana promotes is one of the most pungent varieties of chili in the world. Its production therefore is rubbing shoulders with the traditionally high-earning export crops like; coffee, tea and vanilla as chili now constitute an interesting proposition for agribusiness carrying high growth potentials.

In general, our farmers carry out their farming activities on the basis of a general plot size of 0.2 hectares to 2 hectares of land overall, Depending on whether it is grown as a mono-crop or inter cropped with other crops, production per acre ranges between 475 to 700 kg per year giving them returns 4 times higher than cotton or maize production.

For the market opportunities listed however, the chili sector is still marred by productivity and quality challenges. Mayana’ team however recommends the following conditions to be taken into account to ameliorate and make the whole engagement sustainable:

Most farmers depend on the rains for their farming which rains are not sufficient throughout the year. There has therefore emerged a production gap during dry seasons. Farmers are encouraged to access irrigation facilities that will greatly enhance a constant and reliable production. Secondly, as in many developing countries, challenges for post-harvest handling arise with high humidity and high ambient temperatures as well as sudden heavy rainfall. These factors promote infestation and rotting and hamper the ability of farmers to deliver crops at certain times and specifications. This tends to project the crop as difficult. There is need therefore to invest in solar driers and erection of drying racks in safe and clean houses that enhances the observance of proper handling into food safety.

Overall however, farmers have registered significant gains in chili farming and are able to earn a higher income and increase further three times better than maize or cotton.