Covid And Uganda’s Economy: Too Many Soybeans Growers Collapses Price

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OMORO, Uganda—Romeo Okot, 28, a freelance journalist was forced to abandon
his profession at the peak of coronavirus pandemic in the country and went
to farming instead.

“Life was not easy when the covid-19 pandemic hit the country, so I decided
to go back to our village at Loyo-ajonga, 48 kilometer east of Gulu City,
where I planted soya beans,” he said.

Okot recalled that he invested about 260,000 shillings (about $ 71) for
opening one-and-one-half acres for soya beans productions and a further
66,000 shillings (about US$ 18) to buy seeds.

He disclosed that what motivated him was seeing how people in Loya-ajonga
had bought about 120 herds of livestock from their hard earned money from
soya beans production the previous year, 2019.

However, the price of soya beans dropped drastically in 2020 because many
people had the same idea that Okot Romeo had. Thousands of people fled
urban areas due to the pandemic and many started soya beans farming,
leading to over supply and price collapse.

“There were those people who had shunned farming as being preserved for the
rural community, but they have finally [seen] their mistakes and they went
back to farming,” Okot Romeo said.

After harvesting his soya beans in September 2020, Okot Romeo discovered
that prices had collapsed from 2,000 shilling per kilo ($ O.53) last year
to 900 ($ 0.24) this year. He was lucky enough to have harvested 600
kilograms, earning him 540,000 shillings (about $ 145).

He had hoped to sell at 1,600 shillings per kilogram, but dealing through
middlemen who ask as brokers he received lower payment.

Micheal Opiyo, another farmer, blames the price collapse on the weak local
government policy that lets the middlemen go directly to soya beans
farmers, lowering prices while they pocket the difference.

Cosmas Ojok, 28, a father of three children from Lakim village in Omoro
district says he has been a soya beans farmer for the last five years,
producing about eight bags of soya beans per harvest.

He also discussed how traditional production systems in Acholi region
helped with labor for farming, including “Aleya” which is a form of group
rotational digging. The community participate in clearing and preparing one
person’s land and then move on to the next person’s until everyone in the
group has had their land cleared.

David Livingstone Amone, who is Minister for Production for Acholi Ker
Kwaro, the local government in the region, says historically the Acholi
people had a communal are historically village-level type of family
cooperatives for mobilizing labor. The depended on five key resources, now
under threat: land, water, forest, mountains and animals—forests were an
important resource flora and fauna .

“Historically production was in farming groups called aleya, literally
meaning work rotation. Dira is known as a beer party, for which the group
would work for [a future date] when they will come together to consume at
the end of year, or during independence [celebrations] while awak farming
system is where the feast is organized there and then,” he says.

The colonial period and political turmoil when two million Acholis were
forced into concentration camps by the Yoweri Museveni regime here in
Uganda distorted the local economy and traditional setting.

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