November 9—Activists for Uganda’s mostly small scale farmers have queried the government’s commitment to coordinate the marketing of agricultural produce yet the sector remains the mainstay of the economy.
Betty Aguli, a policy and advocacy specialist with Caritas Norge said, “Malnutrition in the country represents business-political failure to the people occupying and farming the arable land. The farmers provide exports and raw materials for the manufacturing sector. Unfortunately, much as agriculture is crucial to the economy it is still faced with challenges.”
She was speaking during a news conference to launch ‘A desk study to ascertain the cost of agricultural extension to the performance of key productive sectors of the economy besides agriculture’.
“Foremost are the inadequate financing services, the unpredictable climate change and lack of extension workers. Worse still research findings reveal that the number of farmers accessing agricultural extension services range between 14% to 17%. Some 40% to 50% of them depend on advisory services from fellow farmers. It is only 25% who get information in the media,” Aguli said.
ActionAid’s Charles Olweny said last June, African Union leaders at a meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, renewed their 2003 commitment to allocate at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture.
“This coincides with the research findings showing that there is a relationship between agriculture, trade and industry. For a better economy we will not get tired of asking for more as Uganda’s exports are dominated by agricultural products,” Olweny said.
He said Ugandan farmers need more investment, better access to financial services such as loans, and quality inputs in the form of seeds and fertilizers.
“Imagine the jobs that can be created if we followed that route,” concurred Luzobe Musoke referring to the entire value chain from field to final consumer, including farmers, suppliers, transporters, processors and numerous operators. “Unfortunately, the neglect of these sectors has allowed inequality in our country to accelerate.”
Olupot Jiregon from Makerere University said, “It is time we took a second glance at what is being done and halt it. Some of these poverty eradication projects are avenues for sharks to feast on donor money. What the citizens need are extension workers if incomes are to be improved and food security is to be restored. Farmers need to know what to do to contain the floods or droughts when they come.”