Innovative Indian cotton picking technology, Kapas Plucker, was today launched in a dedicated event in Kasese District, Uganda. Facilitated by the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) initiative, the launch was followed by a training programme for farmers, extension officials, researchers and technicians who are key stakeholders and likely beneficiaries of the initiative.
Kapas Plucker is a solar-powered and battery-operated equipment for plucking cotton at smallholder farms. The innovative machinery ensures improved quality and reduced contamination of the raw cotton boll and has been commercialized in India, where it has reduced production costs by over 20% and costs for cotton picking by over 70%.
Here in Uganda, around 2.5 million Ugandans are directly or indirectly engaged in the cotton to clothing value chain. This includes 300,000 smallholder farmers who depend on selling seed cotton as their main source of income, and whose productivity is challenged by a low level of mechanization and low resilience to climate change. To enable higher efficiency, climate resilience, better quality and higher yields, cotton farmers require innovative and climate-smart agricultural technologies suited for their smallholder setup in remote locations. However, smallholder cotton growers often lack understanding of new technologies and the skills for using them. As a result, the rate of technology adoption by Ugandan farmers is low, even compared to the rest of Africa.
Kapas Plucker was designed for Indian farmers with a similar set of circumstances to these. In light of this, SITA has introduced the Indian technology to Uganda, procured several Kapas Pluckers, and will facilitate 20 smallholder farmers and around 30 stakeholders to be trained on how to use the simple-yet-innovative technology. Improved quality and consistency of seed cotton supply will benefit the whole cotton value chain, whilst targeting this group that needs most support in elevating their living standards.
The day kicked-off with the launch of the Kapas Plucker in a ceremonial event inaugurated by H.E. Ajay A. Kumar, the Indian High Commissioner to Uganda, ahead of the in-depth training initiative. The ceremony was also attended by SITA’s partners in the Ugandan cotton sector development:
The other notable attendees included Mr. Govind Venuprasad, Coordinator, SITA, and several district officials.
His Excellency noted that India’s challenges in the cotton sector in the recent past resonate with those facing the Ugandans today, rendering the partnership opportune and valuable.
Mrs. Sabune expressed her gratitude to SIMA CDRA and ITC for their continued commitment to strengthening the cotton sector in Uganda. Dr. Kassim expressed thanks to the Government of India for making Indian agricultural advancements available to Ugandans, and remarked that Uganda should consistently maintain cotton cultivation in order to guarantee higher incomes for farmers. Dr. Asha Rani, Secretary cum Chief Cotton Breeder, SIMA CDRA observed that cotton picking is an activity dominated by women, and the Kapas Plucker machines can potentially correct that gender imbalance.
The training took place in the afternoon and days that followed. Conducted by an expert team from SIMA CDRA, the course demonstrated how Kapas Pluckers can assist in cotton plucking, and train them in the assembling, maintenance and use.
The wider South-South initiative
The launch and training is part of a wider South-South Cotton Development Initiative, which began in November 2019, when the CDO of Uganda (through NARO and NaSARRI), signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Southern Indian Mills Association – Cotton Development and Research Association (SIMA CDRA). Facilitated by SITA (which is funded by the UK Government), the South-South partnership has centred around knowledge and technology transfer between Uganda and India. This South-South Cotton Development Initiative has the overall objective of increasing productivity, developing resilience in the wake of climate change, and eventually elevating living standards of smallholder farmers. The initiative has also overseen an exchange of cotton seed varieties between the two countries – to develop a more robust and resilient variety.
Once the machines are effectively and gainfully being used by farmers, the whole Ugandan cotton value chain will benefit. The Kapas Pluckers and the training are thus a welcome innovation and intervention for Sustainable Development, as an integrated supply chain contributes directly to Sustainable Development Goals 1, 8, 9, 12 and 17.