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Note Aye Teko Group in Wol Sub-county, Agago District, and the Story of a Maize Milling Machine.

It is one dry and hot Friday afternoon in a small village, located along Kitgum – Kalongo road, called Kuywe, where excitedly members of a community group called Note aye Teko sing a song of “joy and thank you” to Resilient Agricultural Unit (RAU) Agago. But what could have triggered this excitement? The story below, explains the source of their joy.

Note aye Teko, a group that was founded in 2011 for purposes of welfare and coexistence amongst local members, was lucky to join a Danida funded programme called RALNUC 3 in 2016. According to Mr. Ocaya Wilfred, the group chairperson, “our group was selected because of good organization and precedence that we had set in mobilizing communities towards responding to government projects.” The RALNUC 3 programme that supported Note Aye Teko in sunflower farming ended in 2018. “I think it was the first time we received any kind of support, and the sunflower farming was successful for us” noted Ocaya.

Luck didn’t end there for the group and in 2019, the group transitioned into Danida’s new programme; The Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI).

“When RALNUC 3 ended in 2018, we didn’t have much to do besides continuing with farming, but to our amazement, the team from RAU Agago brought us report in 2019 that we were chosen for another support under the new DANIDA programme – NURI,” commented Okot NK Mathew, the group secretary.

Under NURI programme, groups from the preceding programme were referred to as ‘Old Groups’. The Old Groups were successful groups that had received support in DAR/RALNUC and were selected for marketing and value-addition support, to build on the progress under DAR/RALNUC. Under NURI they would be provided with a project of their own choice to undertake as a group and the project would be funded 50-50 by the programme and the group.

“Our Extension Officer gave us a list of projects to choose from; which included: procurement of improved and quality seeds, procurement of tarpaulins, construction of storage facilities and procurement and installation of maize grinding mill, amongst others,” Ocaya said; and as a group, Note aye Teko chose a grinding mill. According to Ocaya, their choice for the grinding mill was influenced by the fact that maize production was very high in the area and yet farmers needed to travel at least 25km to process their maize.

Our Extension Officer gave us a list of projects to choose from; which included: procurement of improved and quality seeds, procurement of tarpaulins, construction of storage facilities and procurement and installation of maize grinding mill, amongst others.

Because it was explained to the group that it would be a 50-50 co-funding project, the group was tasked with raising 2,500,000 Ugx. The group successfully mobilized the funds and  handed their savings over to the management of RAU Agago. “It did not take us long to raise that money since we already had some money in the group account”, said Ocaya. Even though, according to Ocaya, the procurement process took long, and they received their machine in April of 2021, they have so far recovered their money and even gained profits. “We have until now made up to 4,648,000 Ugx from maize milling business”, said Ojara James; the group treasurer.

But what could be more interesting?

According to Chairperson of the grind mill management committee, Mr. Degol Alipayo, the group has formed a Sales and Marketing Committee, which is a team responsible for identifying business opportunities for the group. Because we think maize may become scarce in the near future, we have a set up a ‘5-man-team’ responsible for identifying and procuring quality maize grains for bulking and milling. The group’s intention is that, when maize become scarce, their machine would still continue to run.

So, what’s the future plan?

When asked what the future plans look like to them, an ambitious Alipayo laughed and said,  “We hope that, we shall have proper branding and packaging so that we will be able to sell our products, not only to the community in Wol, but to the whole of Agago district and beyond”. While the group treasure has noted that they had so far spent 2,180,000 Ugx on procuring maize grains, he hinted that the group’s investment is unlikely to stop there. We intend to also start up a poultry project of at least 500 chicken early next year, he added. “Look!” Alipayo points at the maize waste behind their milling machine –  Raising a poultry project makes sense with this waste available.According to Alipayo, this will not only reduce the cost of managing the wastes, but also increase income for the group through the sale of chicken.

The group also intend to procure and install a generic grinding machine. This is because, according Mr. Ocaya, a lot of community members grow millet, sorghum and cassava and a generic grinding machine would help them while raising extra income for the group. “We have so far put aside, 2,000,000 Ugx for the procurement of a generic grinding machine, which we hope to have by February of 2022,” Ocaya said. “If all these go according to our plan, Note aye Teko shall secure, not only the future of their children, but for the entire Wol sub-county as well”, added Alipayo.

Story Credit: Resilience Agricultural Unit (RAU) Agago

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