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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has injected $159m (Shs527b), towards revamping over 40,000 cooperative unions scattered across Uganda to make them viable businesses.

Speaking at the launch of the programme last week, Mr Jo Lesser Oltheten, the director economic growth at the US mission in Kampala, said that the term ‘farmers cooperatives’ would be renamed to ‘producer organisations’ over the five-year span of the project. The change is intended to scale them up to strong businesses which will create market linkages for member farmers dealing in maize, coffee and beans and enable them benefit from extension services, market linkages, good governance and proper management of the organisations.

“We want to build linkages where we have an alliance of agricultural businesses working with the farmers’ federation, civil society organisations, funding agencies and research institutions,” she said, adding that part of the activities will involve addressing the issue of in-put supplies and post-harvest handling.

The project is working with UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme to ensure that there is food security in the country to reduce hunger and poverty.

While launching the project, Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde welcomed the project saying it is in line with the reason government established the Warehouse Receipting Authority to strengthen government’s Warehouse Receipting System, which has so far established 66 warehouses across the country.

Warehouse Receipting System is a model where farmers collect their produce in a government accredited warehouse which issues them with receipts that act as collateral. Producer cooperative unions are basically of two types – those producing seeds and grains as well as those dealing in livestock for either meat or other purposes.