An innovative solution to curb fake farm inputs in Uganda: Famunera

For the longest time, Ugandan farmers have had to suffer painful losses resulting from being sold fake farm inputs by dishonest agrodealers.

The Economic Policy Research Centre Uganda conducted a survey in 2014 where mystery buyers/ shoppers were sent to 360 randomly selected shops across the country to buy small portions of the most prevalent modern inputs: urea and improved maize seed.

In the findings, yields from the sample showed that farmers seeds yielded on average 3.1 tonnes of maize per hectare. Authentic hybrid seeds yield about 4 tonnes of maize per hectare.

“The implication is that the quality of a bag of hybrid seeds in shops is as good as mixing half a bag of guanine hybrid and half a bag of farmer’s seed,” Dr. Swaibu Mbowa, a Senior Research Fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) said.

Inception of Famunera – Falling victim to fake agrodealers

In 2013, Naika was operating a soap making business where he raised capital to start a fresh produce delivery business. In 2015, Naika started running Naiken Foods, a fresh produce delivery business that delivered fresh produce from farmers to people in their homes.

“I wanted to have a consistent supply so instead of relying solely on farmers, I decided to grow my own produce. I went to a popular seeds shop in Kampala, bought some inputs and planted. When it was time to harvest, I had the worst yield, I barely had any produce,” Naika said.

Falling victim to fake inputs from fake agrodealers was an extremely frustrating experience that motivated him to create a solution,

“I realised I wasn’t the only farmer affected. I asked other people and they all had similar experiences. Farmers were lucky to even get 50% yield from the inputs they bought. That is when it dawned on me that to solve this problem I had to start from the root of the problem. So in 2016, I rebranded Naiken Foods to Famunera.”

Breaking the cycle of fake inputs in the market

Famunera is an agribusiness marketplace that sources for genuine quality farm inputs from verified suppliers, delivers them to smallholder farmers and provides marketing for their produce in Uganda.

Naika realised that the issue was not with the manufacturers but the agrodealers who dilute original products or print their packaging with the manufacturer’s brand and put in fake seeds. To break this chain, Famunera links farmers directly with original quality products from manufacturers.

The name Famunera is strategic, it speaks directly to farmers as a way to give them hope that despite the bad experiences they had in the past, they can keep on farming. ‘Nera’ means again so the name is interpreted as ‘farm again’.

Happy farmers showing off their produce from the farm inputs bought at Famunera

How it works

There are two channels Famunera uses to offer this solution,

  1. Through the Famunera web app that is accessible on desktop and mobile.
  2. Call Center – This works for farmers who do not have smartphones. They call in directly and they are assisted to successfully place orders for farm inputs.

Once the order reaches Famunera, they use an internally managed system with verified drivers of trucks and buses on all major routes in Uganda who ensure last mile delivery of orders for farm inputs to different farmers within one day across the country.

Enhancing the value chain to include food processors

Besides delivery of farm inputs from manufacturers to farmers, Famunera has created a value chain which connects farmers with food processors as well and this creates a ready market for farmers and ready supply for food processors.

“We engage with food processing companies such as Mandela Millers and Mukwano Industries. When farmers use our platform to buy quality inputs, they qualify to use our platform to market their produce to food processors at harvest time,” Naika said

This solution enables food processors to trace the quality of input used by the farmers to ensure it meets the quality standard and this assures them that they are buying quality produce.

Famunera also has a planner tool on the web application where farmers can create a shopping list of the inputs they will need for the next season, budget around it, create a project, track progress and get their inputs delivered.

As a value addition service to farmers, they also provide free agronomy/farming support.

Marketing strategies

Famunera has active social media presence on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Instagram which has helped build their brand and create awareness among farmers.

Besides that, they pay for radio mentions once in a while, targeting programs with high listenership.

Engaging farmer group leaders

So far, Famunera has reached over 100,000 farmers in Uganda through radio, TV and farmer forums. Out of this number, 5,000 farmers have been directly served through the platform.

They work actively with farmer group leaders who have been a great support especially in organizing farmer forums in the country. In 2019 alone, they visited 17 districts reaching out to up to 5 sub counties in each district where they held successful farmer forum sessions to create awareness. Each session had an average 0f 100 – 200 farmers who were trained on how to grow their input through Famunera.

Naika Enock Julius addressing farmers during one of the farmer forums

Major challenge

Naika admits that financing marketing is the major challenge they face at Famunera,

“We know which channels to advertise on, but we are limited financially so we are not able to spend as much as we should on adverts in popular farmer stations such as Bukede TV.”

Getting the right investor has also been a challenge for Naika,

“We have engaged with investors who claim to be focused on early stage ventures but once we have a conversation, they say they’ll get back to us once we hit USD 100,000 net profit. It has been a challenge getting a genuine investor that we can partner with.”

Value from GrowthAfrica Accelerator

“Through the GrowthAfrica Accelerator, I realized the gaps that existed in the business. It was more like a self-diagnosis of the business that exposed me to specific changes I needed to make for Famunera to grow,” Naika said.

Some farmers going through a demonstration done by Famunera

Advice for fellow entrepreneurs

Naika’s  advice for fellow entrepreneurs is to never lose sight of not only their vision but the plan to achieve the vision. Everything else will fall in place once you focus on the vision.

Future plans: being a major data centre for agriculture

Famunera’s focus for the future is to be the biggest data centre for the agriculture value chain. Naika recognises that data is key for key stakeholders in the agriculture industry and being a direct source for this data would be a game changer for the industry.

Naika also feels that the business is ready to partner with an investor,

“We have gotten this far by our own efforts but having support from an investor would take our solution to the next level.”

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