Why we should have a Farmers’ Day in Uganda
Posted Wednesday, March 20 2013 at 00:00
Switching roles is a fun activity that can take place on Women’s Day. The women put their feet up while the men slave away in the kitchen. But besides being fun, role switching can help men appreciate the women in their lives and stop taking them for granted.
Farmers too deserve to have a day in their honour because, like women, their contribution to society is taken for granted. You need to switch roles with a farmer for a day in order to appreciate what it takes.
While at a Women’s Day exhibition, it dawned on me that Uganda does not have such a special day.
It is a backbreaking job to feed 35 million people every day, every year. The farmers do not just feed the nation; they also prop up an informal welfare system that sustains millions of unemployed or underemployed people in urban areas.
These include youth who survive on by “volunteering” to offload trucks carrying bananas to the market. By plucking off a few fingers from each bunch, these “volunteers” return home with free bananas at the end of the day.
Are they grateful to the farmer? Very unlikely.
If you visit Owino, Nakasero, Nakawa or Kalerwe markets early in the morning, you will notice wheel barrow pushers buying fruits, vegetables and other foods to vend in the suburbs. This is how they earn their living. Many of them started as farmers but realised it was too much work and switched to this.
There is a crisis whenever the trucks delay or do not come due to bad weather or roads. People need food and the vendors need money. Then we have the underpaid salaried workers who depend on the makeshift night markets for cheap food to keep them going till next payday. It is the farmer subsidising their poor pay. The list is endless.
That is why we need a farmers’ day. Other countries have been doing it for years.
Tanzania’s Nane Nane (Swahili for eight-eight) is a colourful public holiday held on August 8 and is celebrated with agricultural fairs where farmers are recognised for their contribution to the economy.
In Ghana, farmers’ day is on the first Friday of December to review the previous year and recognise outstanding farmers in various categories. In the beginning, in the mid eighties, outstanding farmers would be rewarded with simple farm implements such as a machete and a pair of gum boots or things like a radio set.
Over the years the prizes got “juicier”, moving from wheelbarrows to bicycles to motor bikes to pickup trucks.
Today, thanks to generous offers from business entities that see farmers as potential customers, the winners are handed keys to brand new tractors, or furnished mansions.
In India, where agriculture directly employs more than half the population, the farmers remember Chaudhary Charan Singh. When he was Prime Minister, he introduced reforms and policies that favoured ordinary farmers.
Learn from others
Back in Uganda, such a day would help people appreciate the important contribution of the farmers. It would offer a unique opportunity to switch roles with the farmers who produce their food.