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Bidco charms farmers into growing more soybean, sunflower and oil palm trees

Thursday September 29 2016
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A palm oil trees farmer is joined by his neighbours on his four acre farm in Kalangala, as he displays a mature bunch of palm oil seed harvested and ready for transportation to Oil Palm Uganda Limited’s crude oil processing plant. PHOTO | JAMES KARIUKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JAMES KARIUKI

An initiative by Bidco Africa Ltd to directly source soybean and sunflower seeds from local farmers has reignited a fresh interest in the crops’ agribusiness.

The strategy that puts emphasis on the business investing in the people helping it to thrive, is putting in place a win-win formula to ensure a steady supply of raw materials for a steady market at competitive prices for farmers.

The move by Bidco’s boss Vimal Shah, to ink a deal with Public Service and Gender Secretary Sicily Kariuki to create jobs for self-help groups for an initial 1,000 youth, presents a shift on product marketing strategies for businesses.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group also made a commitment to train and also provide seed capital to youth groups in a bid to help them earn an income.

Shah’s move accomplishes his pledge to provide youths with a blank request for soybean and sunflower seeds which would be paid for, on delivery to the Nakuru and Thika based firm.

A similar strategy has won the hearts of many farmers in Uganda’s Kalangala District where a subsidiary of Bidco has turned fishermen’s livelihoods around, through a flourishing palm tree cultivation project jointly run with the government.

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Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust (KOPGT) General Manager Mr Nelson Basaalidde said the 1,750 fishermen and other landowners were granted loans by the government to start palm tree growing after signing agreements that allowed them a four year grace period.

“KOPGT was formed as a marketing agency with the mandate of recovering the loans from farmers once sales of palm oil seeds were made to Oil Palm Uganda Ltd (OPUL). 33per cent is deducted while the rest is directly banked to individual farmer accounts,” he said.

REJUVENATED ECONOMY

The district now shows a rejuvenated economy, with farmers forming a credit and savings society where they raise money for purchase of more oil palm seedlings for planting within their farms.

Kalangala Oil Palm Association chairman, Martin Lugambwa said that the savings scheme brought in 400 farmers whose role is to pool resources together for purchase of farmlands which are then subdivided among members for growing palm trees.

District Chairman William Lugoloobi, said revenues from oil palm growing areas had helped them implement many projects from which they earn Sh4m monthly, and an additional 10percent from earnings reserved for community driven projects, since farmers own 10percent of OPUL shares.

Mr Lugoloobi added that plans are underway to introduce cultivation of palm trees in Buvuma Island as locals had requested for the same.

OPUL’s Financial Controller Janardhan Naidu said farmers’ representatives are also involved in determining the price of freshly harvested oil palm seeds on monthly basis, based on international prices.

“The oil palm seeds we receive from Kalangala meet only 10 per cent of our needs and the rest is imported. We are running a programme to help farmers expand oil palms plantations beyond the 3,500hectare original threshold, to enable them earn more,” he said.

Mr Shah said that their aim is to redefine their association with farmers for a socially responsible and environmentally friendly enterprise that responds to locals’ needs.

The move is the second by Bidco this year after it signed a similar agreement with a Meru based women’s co-operative society for soybean growing and supply.

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