August 3–Farmers have been told to get together and form cooperatives if the the government’s Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) being overseen by the army, is going to do them any good.
Lt. General Charles Angina, the OWC deputy coordinator told 265BN, since the beginning of the scheme there’s has been a big impact especially in terms of higher agricultural productivity. The challenge however, is that many farmers are still using old fashioned methods.
“We want to mechanize the sector by supporting farmers with farming equipment like tractors. That is why we want farmers to form farming groups so that they benefit more from Government programs. Farming in cooperatives has many opportunities both to Government and the farmers,” Lt. Gen. Angina said.
Almost five years ago, President Yoweri Museveni brought in the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) to help with agriculture extension services after losing patience with the statutory National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). Museveni felt NAADS was not giving value for money and introduced OWC to supplement his nationwide campaign to advise rural people on how to raise household incomes. OWC has been heavily involved in the distribution of seeds and other basic agriculture inputs.
The General said the government has started distributing tractors to farmers in some parts of the country which has increased the acreage for farming and more tractors had been ordered for. “Government gave out tractors to some farmers under OWC, but we focused on cooperatives. When farmers are in groups they can manage the machines, because its management requires a lot of resources which an individual may fail to do,” he said.
Recently Museveni handed over 40 tractors to 300 cluster farmers from the western districts of Lyantonde, Kiruhuura, Ibanda, Mitooma, Sheema, Mbarara, Isingiro, Bushenyi and Ntungamo.
Lt. Gen. Angina said through cooperatives, farmers can have a bigger bargaining power. “Middlemen are cheating our farmers by offering cheaper prices for the produce. As an implementer of the OWC program, we want farmers to sell their produce in cooperative manner. That is how they will benefit more from their sweat,” he said.
According to available figures, over 10 million farmers have benefited from the OWC program despite some challenges such as incidences of farmers being handed counterfeit seeds and sub-standard agro-chemicals. However during an earlier interview with Dr Samuel Mugasi, the Executive Director of NAADS, he said companies are now being vetted to ensure that only those with quality seeds are contacted to supply the government in the financial year 2017/2018.