Wednesday April 27 2011

Gulu commercial farmers face challenges

 Gulu commercial farmers face challenges

Mr Geoffrey Oola with the machines used for planting on the farm. PHOTO BY CISSY MAKUMBI 

By Cissy Makumbi

Commercial farmers in Nwoya, Gulu district have expressed fears of weather changes that they believe will affect their crops.
Mr Geoffrey Oola, a commercial farmer in Purongo stated that the fears are a result of losing billions of shillings due to heavy rains in the first season of last year.

“I lost over Shs50m when the heavy rains affected my groundnuts and maize.

“As I talk now, we have already planted rice and maize and groundnuts on 50 acres of land, but we do not know what will happen,” Oola says.

He adds that the issue of elephants and buffaloes from Murchison Falls conservation park destroying their crops has remained unresolved.

Last year the buffaloes destroyed over 20 acres of cassava in Latoro farm where he was expecting to get Shs2.5m from each acre.

“We know the elephants have increased in number, but the wild life authority should relocate some of them to other parks where they are not many,” he says.

Mr Tom Okello the Conservation Area Manager Murchison falls, however says that they have advised the community to always alert them whenever the animals encroach on their farms especially at such a time when farmers are busy tilling.

He said it’s true that the animals have increased in number but there are also some communities that settled in areas where there was no settlement before the insurgency, hence the increase of animals encroaching on the farms.

Communities have also been advised to plant thorny plants and red-pepper in addition to doing some trench digging.

Mr Quelirino Okello, another farmer who shares Oola’s plight noted that the loan schemes are not favouring farmers in the area due to strict terms and conditions.

One needs a land title to get a loan but this is difficult for them as many commercial farmers in the region have no land titles.
“Most land in the region is customarily owned. We do not have land titles and those who would have had them do not have because of the past insecurity in the region,” Okello adds.

He also said that the interest rate of 22 per cent is very high and argued that if it were reduced to 15 per cent the farmers would be able to access the loans.

Also, the farmers lack tools. At the moment,there is only one combine harvester, which serves a population of 40 commercial farmers in the district. This tends to affect their yields especially during the harvest seasons.

“The government should look into our problems especially those to do with farm implements and supply some, like irrigation machines which can supply water to over 40 acres,” Okello says.

The farmers also face a hard time when it comes to transportation of their foodstuffs. Many farmers sell their produce at a giveaway price because the roads are inaccessible especially when it rains. Most farms are located five to 10 kilometres away from the main roads.

“Our output is still being sold within our communities at low prices but if the government can arrange and get a ready market, it can help,” Okello states.