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Acholi Food Connect: Integrating supply and demand within and beyond Africa's bread basket

To transform the way smallholder farmers access markets, creating sustainable and inclusive agricultural supply chains.

Photo of Jenny Rafanomezana
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

TruTrade Ltd

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Ker Kwaro Acholi (KKA) Cultural Revolution Africa is a community mobilization strengthening and coordination agency for promotion of business growth and economic development in Acholi Sub Region.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Acholi sub-region, covers an area of 28,500km^2 near the Uganda - Sudan border.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

It has often been cited that Africa is poised to emerge as the future bread basket of the world. Northern Uganda is one area where this can become a reality. In particular the Acholi region which has huge agricultural potential, due to fertile soils and regular rains and its location, close to international borders. TruTrade has been operational in Uganda since 2015 and has been active in the Acholi region for the last three years. We have passionate and committed staff from the area who we work with to create market access in the area. We have been able to make significant progress increasing farmer incomes and their confidence to invest in production through creating links to local, regional and international markets. Northern Uganda is still less developed than other parts of the country. This is a legacy of the Lord's Resistance Army Insurgency that lasted for over 20 years and saw the majority of the population move to camps and thousands lose their lives. Since 2006 people moved back to their homes and the population embraced agriculture to open up the land and address the problem of food. Mercy Amito, our Regional Coordinator lived through the war and post-war trauma, she says " Seeing many children grow into young adults with little hope except to try and survive to the next day was traumatizing. After the war, people used food as a means of getting back together, forgiving each other and creating a sense of belonging." Currently agricultural activities are widely practiced by the population, at different levels from subsistence to commercial farming. This is the main means of attaining an income and provides a pathway out of poverty. We have selected Acholi sub-region to explore how TruTrade's capacity to bring transparency and traceability to agricultural value chains can be used to transform how the food systems here works.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

This is the historical homeland of the Acholi ethnic group. In the rural areas the place still has an empty feel, although 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. Acholi sub-region is made up of 8 districts: Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Nwoya, Pader, Omoro. It is predominantly rural with small trading centers, Gulu is the only major urban area with a population of approx 160,000 people. Acholi sub-region is relatively remote being over 350km from the capital Kampala. The climate is tropical wet and dry, with average temperatures ranging from 26 to 33 degrees Celsius and annual rainfall 1500mm. There are two distinct seasons: the wet season is warm, humid, and overcast and the dry season from January to March is hot with little rain. There are two harvest seasons: A (July-September) and B (December-February). People traditionally have mixed livestock (cattle, goats, chicken) and crop production (including sorghum, soybean, millet, sunflower, simsim (sesame), maize, beans and root crops. The Acholi diet is largely starch based. The most common flavoring is sesame seed paste either roasted or raw. Groundnuts are also made into paste and both can be added to sauces as thickening agent. Acholi people have distinctive ways of preparing food. For example “Kwon” (a staple dough made from maize, millet or sorghum) is made very firm compared to in other places. A typical lunch or dinner is Kwon served served with vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables, eggplant, okra), plus at least one of sweet potato, rice, cassava or pumpkin and meat or fish. The Acholi are Luo in language and custom. Music and dance are a fundamental part of the cultural heritage.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Current situation Smallholder farmers typically work in unorganized and fragmented value chains with no connection to buyers, poor agronomical practices, limited logistics and access to finance for production or aggregation. Farmers sell to middlemen at low prices, off-takers struggle to get a reliable supply of quality produce and rural employment opportunities in agribusiness are limited. For farmers’ this means low and uncertain incomes which limits their investment in productive capacity and leads to fragile farming household economies. Agribusiness’s face inefficiencies and constraints to growth due to difficulties sourcing raw materials. At a macro level, there are growing concerns about global supply chain sustainability and there are emerging compliance requirements. Environment: Acholi is rich in natural resources. Farming is generally done without use of external inputs and poor agronomical practices, so yields are lower than could be. Diet: The rural poor tend to eat a basic unvaried diet, yet there is a rich heritage, the area is known within Uganda for its tasty food. Economics: In Uganda 70% of smallholder farmers live on less than $2.50/day and poverty levels are high. This is the case in Acholi sub-region. Culture: Strong cultural identity Technology: Growing digital financial services. Need to improve digital literacy and connectivity in some areas. Access to agricultural technologies is limited. Policy: Future situation To be developed Solving the challenge of fragmented value chains will enable rural producers to prosper, provide business opportunities for aggregators and unlock the potential of African agribusiness. For most agricultural produce, both supply and demand exist; the challenge is to match them. This is difficult to solve as it is based on a failure of market coordination and of the market for risk, with lack of market security and price volatility as critical elements. It is based on this understanding of the problem that TruTrade’s business model has been developed. It is an important problem to address because two thirds of Africans depend on agriculture for their livelihood, and the sector accounts for 30-40% of the continent’s GDP (Africa Research Institute), however small, family-run farms are home to the majority of people living in absolute poverty (CGAP Smallholder families data hub).

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

TruTrade was set up to transform the way smallholder farmers access markets. Our mission is to increase smallholder farmer incomes through integrating them into sustainable value chains. We do this by bringing together the ‘supply power’ of millions of small-scale producers, to meet local, regional and international market demand. We believe that providing trade transparency and transaction security is the key to creating sustainable food systems that work for farmers, aggregators and buyers. TruTrade’s Market Connect service provides smallholder farmers with a direct link to market, fair prices and digital payment that enables them to build a trading record. Source Connect provides agribusinesses and wholesalers with traceable produce to meet their volume requirements and quality specifications on a consistent basis. Our Services are built on three core components: First: we have a web and mobile enabled platform to check out transaction viability and for efficient supply chain management. We can integrate with different payments platform and messaging services. Provide individual farmer trading records and business analytics Second: We have a network of agents who manage collection points across rural areas. Farmers bring their produce, it is checked and weighed using calibrated scales and the agent triggers a digital payment direct to farmers’ mobile money line or bank account. Our agents provide post-harvest handling services and are increasingly engaged in production support. We aggregate produce from multiple agents for delivery to meet buyer demand. Third: we provide Trade Finance, to pay farmers on spot, to meet transaction costs from packaging, storage, handling, transport, value addition, taxes etc and to cover the buyer sale to settlement gap. With this investment we will have the opportunity to take a systems approach and use our business model as a tool to develop a more holistic approach to the Food System in the Acholi sub-region. We will work with local partners to find ways to optimize the way agricultural supply chains work, making connections from farm to fork. We will look at this from different spatial levels: Local - Promote access to god quality, locally produced food National - Open opportunities for agricultural produce from Acholi to meet the demand from agribusinesses, wholesalers and retailers in rest of Uganda Regional - Connect food producers to consumers in South Sudan, Congo and Kenya. The Acholi sub-region is well situated on a transport corridor, but due to geo-political insecurities cross-border trade has been limited to brokers. International - The sesame seed from Acholi region is one of the most oil rich in the world. There is increasing global demand for sesame for oil and confectionary items and huge potential to create a premium product based on origination that connects global consumers to the area.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

To be developed with local stakeholders

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

This vision for a food future builds on the Acholi people's focus on agriculture as a development pathway. We are exploring how TruTrade's tools and business model can be used by different local actors to address interrelated food system issues taking a broader perspective than we have done so far. Joint envisioning exercises will take place in January to inform this response.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website


Join the conversation:

Photo of alexander valeton

Hi Jenny Rafanomezana  did you check The Digital Chain hain? how can we work together? lemme know, Alexander

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