Kampala, Uganda — Chemonics International’s flagship program in Uganda was hailed as the “best agricultural project” by the country’s leading newspaper and a model of successful foreign aid interventions by U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.
The New Vision, an influential Ugandan daily, described the project — known as IDEA — as the kind of technical assistance that “will eventually make Ugandan farmers internationally competitive and better off.”
Since 1995, the $30-million project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has increased cut-flower exports six-fold, doubled the production of many high-value crops, and raised maize and bean yields by 50 to 200 percent. These are meaningful results for a country where 80 percent of the population derives its income from the agricultural sector.
Chemonics President Ashraf Rizk, who visited the project last month, described IDEA as a “top-performing project that proves development can make a difference.”
With help from IDEA, New Vision noted, flower growers are setting up shop near Lake Victoria, grain traders are exporting maize to southern Africa, peasant farmers are selling chilli peppers directly to Marks and Spencer in England, and small farmers are improving maize crops with financing support from commercial banks.
Secretary O’Neill, U2 lead singer Bono, and comedian Chris Tucker learned first-hand about IDEA’s work in a visit to one of 19 project-supported farm sites last month. Clive Drew, seven-year manager of IDEA, escorted the delegation to the Uganda Flower Exporters Association, established in 1995 with project support, and a chrysanthemum-cutting business near the capital, Kampala.
The association is a prime example of Chemonics’ work with private sector producers, traders, and exporters. Given the small size of its internal market, Uganda must focus on boosting exports of non-traditional agricultural crops, Drew explained.
With a per capita GDP of only $330, high population growth, and spreading infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Uganda needs “serious foreign assistance interventions that result in macro-level impacts,” said Drew.
To achieve this, IDEA focuses on expanding and diversifying the export base, improving crop quality and yield, and generating employment. Described as “an excellent program” by The Economist, the project has helped generate exports worth $20 million and raised the incomes of more than 25,000 small farmers and agricultural workers.
IDEA also promotes best practices in product quality, the environment, worker and consumer safety, and health and welfare. This includes health clinics for farm staff and an HIV-in-the-workplace program to educate workers about AIDS.
“We are proactive in this because the market demands it,” Drew said. “It is largely done by the industry self-regulating itself — not by bureaucrats enforcing rules and regulations.”
Impressed by these results, Secretary O’Neill said the project embodies the types of investments that promise to move Africa forward.
Uganda was the third of four countries visited by O’Neill and Bono during a 10-day tour of Africa. Tucker joined the unlikely pair in Uganda. Over the next few weeks, Secretary O’Neill is expected to issue recommendations to President George W. Bush based on his observations during the tour.
Mark Wood, a 13-year Chemonics veteran and a member of the IDEA team, hopes projects like IDEA can convince the Treasury Secretary that “long-term, results-oriented, grant-funded technical assistance is key to knowledge transfer and development in countries like Uganda.”