07 June 2016

Bangirana, a hero to Kamwenge farmers

Left, Bangirana winnows beans outside her home. Through her efforts, she has helped Kamwenge farmers access good quality seed. Top, one of the beneficiary farmers in his bean garden . PHOTO BY JOSEPH KATO 

In every community there is always that person who stands out. As a result, he or she becomes a reference, address or signature. And so is Constance Bangirana in Kamwenge Town, among bean growers.
If you went looking for Constance Bangirana in Kamwenge, your search could be a little longer. But if you asked for Constance Ow’ebihimba (Constance the beans dealer), then it would be a lot shorter.
That is how I got to Galiraya village and to Kamwenge Tukolerehamwe Area Cooperative Enterprise.
It is here that bean growers meet to discuss improving quality, increasing output, sourcing potential buyers and better prices.

Bangirana started growing beans in 2006 after she realised they were more profitable than other crops she grew. “I earned more from beans. I choose beans and choice has worked out for me.”
She began on an acre and later expanded to two. But the output was not as expected. It was when she consulted friends working at Naro Namulonge. They advised her to grow improved varieties—Nabe17, Nabe14, Nabe15, and Nabe14.
It is then that she started to harvest four to five sacks of beans from an acre, which was not the case with the traditional varieties.

While at one of the selling centres, Bangirana felt sad whenever buyers rejected some beans due to poor quality yet the farmers had put in a lot of time.
So she decided to walk the talk by helping bean growers so their efforts could not go to waste. Starting with farmers in the vicinity—just like the adage “charity begins at home”.
The idea led to a bean growers association with the aim of addressing their challenges. This was the genesis of Kamwenge Tukolerehamwe ACE in 2010.

Under this, farmers are trained on good agronomic practices, provided with improved seed, sensitised on fertilisers, agro-chemicals as well as weed, pests and disease control.
This was done through a collaboration with district extension workers. And to scale up, more than 500 farmers have been trained through support of Usaid’s Future the Future Commodity Production and Marketing activity (CPM).
“Working together has helped us improve quality as well as market for our beans,” Bangirana explains.
Since they started trading as a group, their sales have gone up. In 2013, they sold 966 metric tonnes of beans. In 2014, it was 5,115 and the following year (2015), it was 1,651. They sell each kilogram at Shs2,500-Shs3,000.

Joseph Bazirake, a village agent, also chairperson of Masaka Bataka Kweyamba farmers’ group in Masaka Ward in Kamwenge Town, applauds her efforts.
Bazirake, whose group has more than 200 farmers, says his produce has greatly increased since he underwent the trainings.
“I would get less than 30kg of beans from an acre. Now, my harvests are 200kg,” he says.
Similarly, Samson Nyiribinega, who grows beans on six acres, describes Bangirana as a mentor. “She brought us good quality seeds.”

Bangirana reaches out to famers in distant places through radio talk shows.
However, the success story is not without challenges. The farmers worry about the shrinking market for their beans since National Agriculture Advisory Services (Naads), which was their biggest client, has been replaced with Operation Wealth Creation.
To address this problem, Kamwenge Tukolerehamwe is connecting the farmers to buyers at Busia so in order to penetrate the Kenyan market.


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