Working with farmer groups for greater impact

It is a bright and sunny day as we travel to meet farmer groups in the Republic of Southern Sudan's Eastern Equatorial Province, Magwi county. On a supervision/implementation support mission for the Southern Sudan Livelihoods Development Project (SSLDP), we have had opportunities to interact with rural small scale farmers who belong to groups that they have created to work together. SSLDP is a Government of Southern Sudan project, implemented with support from IFAD and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands since 2009. The mission team divided into two groups to be able to visit the different project sites.
Amazo Crop Production Group in Loa Payam was formed in 2008, by returnees from exile in Uganda. Their objectives were to work together to produce food for their families, sell excess produce in markets and get money to take their children to school, and pay for household necessities such as health care. Amazo means ‘we are growing’ and the group members are very optimistic that they will grow bigger and greater.
Some members of Amazo group celebrating being together
and receiving guests. ©IFAD/Ann Turinayo

The group has twenty members – 17 women and 3 men. They created bylaws to govern their members’ participation and the selection of activities, overseen and managed by an elected executive committee.  They have developed impressive record keeping of group accounts, profits and details on the land they have tilled, thanks to the training received from the service providers under the SSLDP. As a group, and individually, they have been able to increase the acreage of land they cultivate. Before, each member cultivated about one acre, but now, they each cultivate four acres, planting mainly sesame, groundnuts, cassava, soya bean and sorghum. Using group savings to buy bricks, their own labour, and with support from the project, they constructed their own store to keep their harvest as they look for a good market to sell their produce. The store affords them time to sell their produce at a good price, as they cannot be coerced by middlemen to sell at an unfavorable price for fear that their goods will get spoilt. In the second season of 2012, they harvested 153 bags of groundnuts, 133 of which were sold for about USD 2945, ensuring that they kept 20 bags for seed for the next season. They also harvested 150 kgs of sesame which they sold for USD 125. They shared some of the money to take pay for their household needs, and saved the rest for future use by the group.

Moriku tends her sesame garden. ©IFAD/Ann Turinayo
Betty Moriku, married and a mother of 6 joined Amazo in 2008 as one of the pioneers. “I have been able to get capital to increase the stock in my shop and now I want to start doing a business of processing and selling shear nut,” says Moriku. Moriku is able to take her children, four of whom are in primary to school without a problem.

The group also provides credit to members for an agreed interest rate, and members who have money can keep it with a treasurer and earn some interest on it. However, the main challenge that the group faces is their dependence on the good will of the treasurer as there are no other risk management mechanisms such as formal financial institutions where such groups can register and keep their savings safe. Other hurdles that the group cited were, climate change, a lack of mechanized agricultural equipment to be able to till more land in less time, and having no sure available markets. Nonetheless, they plan to increase production of the various crops by saving towards an ox plough which will enable them to plant more. They also said they would explore the option of opening an account in a financial institution to keep their money safe.