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Chia seeds provide renewed hope for Terego to shun tobacco completely



In terms of labour requirements, chia has a clear comparative advantage over tobacco since it takes just two-and-a-half months from planting to maturity and doesn’t require weeding.

It is also said to be good for people with diabetes, hypertension and other non-communicable diseases.

However the farmers’ fears hinge on the market stability with an earlier company that has tried to promote the crop in parts of Terego and Madi-Okollo districts leaving many farmers foul-mouthed after failing to buy all the produce last year.

Now Joyce Atimango of SAGE Uganda says they will buy all that was left by what she calls rogue actors that splintered from her company and rushed to West Nile ahead of them.

“We shall buy all that they failed to buy because for us we are for poverty alleviation,” she counseled distraught farmers and Leju town council leaders at the Terego district council hall last week.

Joyce Atimango making the case for chia farming in Terego

Atimango said they will buy a kilo of chia at sh4,000, a relatively decent pricing compared to sun-dried tobacco variety that a new promoter was purchasing at sh4,500 a kilo last year.

A farmer needs a kilo of chia seeds to plant an acre of garden, yielding between 200kg to 300kg and planting is by broadcasting.

She revealed that her company has a standing order for 5,000 metric tons of chia for export for the June, 2023 harvest.

“Embrace the chia project. It is an enterprise that can help you get all the money you want, in fact I encourage you to plant it three times a year and we have the capacity to buy everything you harvest,” Atimango assured the people.

Persuaded by her moving presentation, Jane Eyotaru, a female councilor who is stuck with a basinful of unsold chia at her home said she will give the crop another try since a new promoter has come to the district.

Similarly, Monica Ayikoru, another women leader in Terego, said they would mobilize farmers to embrace chia production.

“Tobacco has finished our trees because you need a lot of wood fuel to cure it. But let there be a steady market for chia so that our people can come out of the hangover of tobacco,” she emphasized.

Other district leaders and farmers asked for a memorandum of understanding to be signed with SAGE Uganda in order to spell out the terms of reference and contract period.

MP Joel Leku lobbied the SAGE Uganda company to come to his constituency

Joel Leku, the Terego West Constituency Member of Parliament, who approached and wooed SAGE Uganda to come to Terego said he has already had extensive discussions with the company officials and got assurance that those fears would be taken care of.

“My fear is also like yours. That is why I brought this woman (Atimango) here to talk to you. I will take some farmers for exposure visit to see how chia has changed lives of farmers in Northern Uganda,” the MP said.

Atimango said they will draw lessons from their decade long experience of promoting Chia to setup farmer focused structures to ensure mutual benefit from their foray into West Nile.

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