Boda Bodas Restoring Hope for farmer Market Access During Covid-19 Pandemic
Through Whatsapp, the CEA program successfully linked smallholder farmers to boda boda riders for safe, affordable and innovative means of transporting their produce to customers within communities during a national lockdown to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
Limited movement from March to May 2020 severely affected the ability of smallholder farmers to access markets for their produce in rural areas. After a strict lockdown ordered by the Uganda government to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, trucks that regularly moved through farms to transport farm produce became unusually expensive due to new measures that limited their human cargo and had drastically increased their operating costs. With the majority of farmers unable to afford the exorbitant charges, long treks from remote farms to markets became the norm. However, with the majority of customers unable to travel from their distant homes to markets, farmers were unable to make sufficient profits on their trades, with the majority opting to sell at dismal prices.
Throughout the lockdown, CEA partners therefore focussed on conducting social media information dissemination campaigns to equip farmers to deal with the changing situation. Through Whatsapp, partners shared updates from district Covid-19 task forces in Lango, Karamoja and Teso regions of Uganda with over 1000 farmers. Information on location of certified seed producers within communities, and weather updates enabled farmers to continue producing quality agricultural products. Linkages to boda boda (local name for motorbike) riders further provided a safe, affordable, innovative means of transporting quality seeds to farmers, and produce to customers within communities.
As a result, both farmers and input dealers were able to apply the safety precautions given by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by maintaining a safe distance between them and their customers, and they were able to successfully resume their businesses and sustain their livelihoods. As an added bonus, boda boda riders, who had been deprived of their usual income from carrying passengers, were also able to earn an income from the transportation of products.
The Civic Engagement Alliance is a joint collaboration between Dutch and southern Civil Society Organizations that advocates for smallholder farmers to access quality and nutritious food, as well as markets. During the Covid-19 pandemic crisis in Uganda, implementing partners were at the forefront of innovations to sustain programmatic gains for smallholder farmers in Karamoja, Lango and Teso sub regions. The program is implemented by Advance Afrika, NGO Forum, Share An Opportunity, Church of Uganda Teso Dioceses Development Offices (COU-TEDDO), Arid land Development Program and Facilitating Peace and Development (FAPAD), with support from ICCO Cooperation.