As we strive to improve national agricultural production, it is worthwhile to consider some of the issues facing the farming sector.
One of them is that we have too many farmers, the majority of them working on different small pieces of land, and doing different farming activities in different ways.
The small farms continue to multiply and getting smaller as they are divided up between more people due to the growing population. In countries like Britain, where agricultural production is quite high, only about five percent of the population is engaged in farming. In the landscape, one sees large fields of crops on which machines do most of the work.
Here, in Uganda, close to 80 per cent of the population is in farming and the countryside comprises of small, generally poorly managed, gardens.
Most of our farmers have low levels of education while others are just conservative and they do not carry out recommended crop husbandry practices and pest control measures.
The soils get overworked and depleted. Poor post-harvest handling of crops such as coffee results in low prices and farmers’ loss of incentive to produce more.
Excessive land fragmentation makes it difficult for the farmers to carry out the farming activities of their choice and to achieve profitable production.
For some households, the land on which they work is not even enough to produce sufficient food for them to eat throughout the year. Such farmers cannot keep large animals like cattle or pigs unless they are prepared to buy the feeds for the animals.
Most of the work on the small farm is done by hand and it is quite labourious since the use of machines such as tractors or combine harvesters does not make sense.
Due to insufficient income from the small farm, the proprietor finds it hard to purchase fertilisers or improved seeds, which keeps him or her in perpetual poverty.
Growing cash crops such as coffee on small holdings still results in meagre yields.
Some farmers do not own the land on which they practice agriculture and due to lack of security of tenure, they do not invest in long-term profitable farming projects.