Wednesday May 7 2014

Hurdles of farming on scattered pieces of land

By Michael J. Ssali

One of the main reasons our agricultural production remains low is that most of the farmers work on small pieces of land.

In much of central Uganda, the land tenure system allows smallholder farmers to settle and work on large chunks of land belonging to landlords to whom they pay an annual fee.
The land is further sub-divided when the farmers die and their children inherit the different small land pieces from their parents.

In some cases, a single farmer owns as many as six small pieces of land scattered in different places over a radius of two or more miles.

Such a farmer usually begins with one piece of land and expands by buying more plots elsewhere. Land fragmentation or sub-division is bad for agriculture because some of the land is poorly utilised by those who claim ownership and are not in a position to carry out productive farming on it while others just keep their pieces idle and wasted.

When pests or crop diseases strike, it is difficult to fight them because while some farmers are keen about wiping out the pests, other farmers are lazy and their neglected plots become the breeding ground for the pests.

That is why it has been difficult to reduce such diseases as the banana bacterial wilt, the coffee wilt disease, and pests like coffee twig borer and a whole range of others.

Farm inspection is difficult for a farmer owning small gardens scattered in different places. Yet the old wise saying goes: “The sole of the farmer’s boot is his farm’s best manure.”

It emphasises the importance of regular farm inspection by the farmer, seeing what is wrong here or there and “communicating with the crops and the animals.”

The use of large machines such as tractors and harvesters is impossible because of the small size of the individual farms, each producing different crops. Yet mechanisation increases yields.
Our form of agriculture is thus tied down to the use of simple tools such as hand hoes resulting in low yields. It makes it unattractive to the enterprising and better educated youths that tend to migrate to towns.