Farming

FARMER’S DIARY: Farmers should not be given free seeds and planting material

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By Michael J. Ssali

Posted  Wednesday, January 1  2014 at  02:00
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Sometime last year, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) made patrols in Masaka region to warn farmers against drying coffee on the bare ground.
Some farmers interpreted the measure as harassment by the government and some of them were heard suggesting that UCDA should donate to them tarpaulins on which they would dry coffee.
The suggestion puzzled me until I remembered that for several years, our politicians have now been donating coffee seedlings to the farmers, especially around election time.

Tarpaulins cost between Shs30,000 and Shs50,000 each and can be used for coffee drying for a minimum of three years. One 70kg bag of Robusta kiboko coffee last year sold at Shs180,000. The average farmer harvests about five bags. However, some farmers still think it the responsibility of UCDA or the government to donate tarpaulins on which to dry the coffee. The struggle to reduce poverty should not be confused with politics.

Some of the politicians have never really experienced poverty, they do not even want it to go away, and they are apparently using it for their personal aggrandisement. Often they donate seed to peasants just to propagate their popularity without caring much about what takes place later. They will even distribute planting material when the rainy season is about to end, fully knowing that irrigation is far beyond the means of the recipient communities.

Priorities

Poor people should not be given things free but rather helped to appreciate the benefit of hard work. If we want them to take farming as a business then why are the politicians so quick to give them free things? Which similar support is given to shop keepers, mechanics, tailors, carpenters or builders? In my view, if people are to be introduced to growing a crop, they should undergo some form of training in ground preparation, the crop’s husbandry practices, post-harvest handling, and marketing before they get the seed to plant.

They also should be interested in growing the crop and be prepared to work. Some of the people we want to produce particular crops could have totally different priorities, if they had the chance to choose. Finally, the planting material they get should be of the recommended quality--high yielding and disease free.