When I worked with Cafe Africa Uganda (2006-2012) we discovered the power of collaboration in Uganda; stakeholders across the coffee sector worked together for a common goal of increasing coffee production throughout the coffee sector. It has proven enormously successful, and the model of vertical stakeholder collaboration through a whole value chain has worked because everyone has pulled together towards a common goal.
Now I wish to consider horizontal collaboration through a geographic area in a broader sector – the geographic area being the district of Gulu and the broader sector being all of agriculture. Can the NGOs/projects in whole agriculture sector in this one geographic area successfully collaborate for the long term benefits of their clients, the smallholder family farmers?
The place I want to research this subject is Gulu in Acholiland. It is the traditional capital of Northern Uganda.The total population of Gulu District is about 444,000 in 88,000 households. In 2006 about 1.7m IDPs (internally displaced persons) returned to their homes from camps after 20 years of war between Uganda and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) in the North, of which 250,000 returned to homes in Gulu.
With this new stability has come investment by development partners and NGOs. As 90%+ of the population relies on subsistence farming, most of the investment is related to agriculture. There are dozens if not hundreds of agriculture projects in the area.
Experience of Uganda and working in the NGO sector suggests that each NGO is working in a silo and barely connects with any other project. However, each one is struggling to find the most efficient and effective ways to reach their targets. Each is probably encountering similar barriers to success as the other, but also innovating and coming up with best practice.
What I hope is that I will be able to demonstrate to local authorities and projects the benefits of collaborating which will enable an upscaling of the projects and their outcomes. Additionally, I hope to return to Uganda to work, ideally to establish collaboration platforms at district level.