Providing women groups with skills on commodity trading could be key in unlocking their potential to trade within east Africa.
Similar efforts by TradeMark East Africa are already bearing fruits with a number of Ugandan women traders beginning to exports their crops to other East African countries.
The TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) Women and Trade programme which has been in place since 2015 has had close to five thousand Ugandan women trading in East Africa.
They are part of the 25,000 women across East Africa who have directly benefited from the programme.
TradeMark East Africa says it has also increased market access for traders through establishment of five cooperatives in sub-sector areas of beans, coffee, maize, handcrafts and beverages in the districts of Hoima, Kabale, Mpigi, Jinja, Masaka and Kapchorwa.
Clare Kabakyenga is one of the programme beneficiaries trading between the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. She said support from TradeMark East Africa helped her to extend her activities to Busia border.
“I started trading to increase my income. My journey began in farming, first planting potatoes and then beans. Beans are viewed as women crops in my culture. Farmers in my district are mostly small scale and yet to penetrate markets competitively, you need volumes,” said Kabakyenga
She is a member of Manyakabi Area Cooperative enterprise which currently over eight thousand farmers, 89 per cent of who are women. Kabakyenga and her members supply the cooperative with maize and beans for bulking.
“Markets in Uganda were saturated by the same products and so, we contacted middle men who sold to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On learning the profit margins, they got, we decided to take a risk and export to Rwanda,” she said.
She says the beginning to venture into Rwanda market was not easy because the cooperative did not meet requires for exporting such products.
” Our first export spent 8 days at the border because we had to get a certificate of origin (CoO) and a Phsytosanitary certificate. The CoO was from the export promotion board and Phsytosanitary certificate from ministry of agriculture. Being new in export business, we had a tough time understanding the documents resulting to a lot of back and forth with border officials,” said Kabakyenga
She said the first trip was a loss but offered opportunity from acquiring more information from TradeMark East Africa.
“In 2015, we learned of TMEA and we joined the trainings they were supporting at the border. It is from these that we understood export processes and EAC requirements and got market information,” she said
She explained that requirements like the bench marked moisture content for grains in East African countries sound simple but mean a loss or a profit for traders.
Kabakyenga says most new traders are unaware of such requirements yet they are crucial is one is to cross the borders. Trader according to Kabakayenga also need to be trained on improved post-harvest handling technologies and how to access markets.
“Prior to this, we would sell all our grains irrespective of the quality, at the same price. After training, we priced our grains by quality and looked for quality conscience buyers,” said Kabakyenga.
She said before the TradeMark East Africa training, she would earn eight hundred thousand shillings per season from selling maize but can now earn seventy million shillings in a season.
At cooperative level, Kabakyenga says they would earn 9 million shillings per season but now earn over 600 million shillings from maize and 152 million shillings from beans.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde, commended Clare’s cooperative. Kyambadde said her ministry is issuing machines to women’s groups for value addition.
“The Ugandan trade ministry is also reviewing all trade policies to ensure they have gender provisions. Moving forward and as Government, through a collaborative effort, we aim to reduce challenges that women face as traders and call upon other organizations to join us,” said Kyambadde.
She further noted, “This programme demonstrates that public private partnerships can actually bear tangible results when fully utilized. As a government, we will continue supporting partners to strengthen women and trade programmes in the country.”
TradeMark East Africa, Chief Executive Officer, Frank Matsaert said their strategy in the next five years is to scale up their programme and reach to over 300,000 women across East Africa.