Monday June 30 2014

Army is not fit to monitor agriculture

By Adventino Banjwa

Ever since the news of military takeover of National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) was announced by President Museveni, Ugandans have been engaged in heated debate.
Proponents of the move argue that because civilians have messed it up, it’s the right time to try the army. They also add that where the army has been used to deliver services to the people, they have performed beyond expectations hence proving their worth.
I do not think that apologists to this militarisation project understand the root cause of the problem of poor service delivery in Uganda.
I strongly believe that just like many malfunctioning government initiatives, the rot in Naads is due to poor politics. Over the years, there has been a growing tendency of government using programmes designed to benefit the people simply for political reasons. And after such programmes achieve their intended political roles, they are deliberately dumped.
The list of such programmes is endless. From Entandikwa scheme, to UPE, USE, Youths Venture Fund, Bonna Bagaggawale, Naads, name them! In most cases; management of these programmes has always been keenly put in the hands of staunch cadres or supporters of the establishment. That’s why I see no difference between the old regime of Naads, and the proposed new one. It is ‘Ssengavuddemu ngazzeemu’ as the Baganda may put it. Call it old wine in new bottles.
Government should know that any mess in the agricultural sector directly affects all other sectors and hence people’s livelihoods. Soldiers may be good at delivering inputs, and may not require extra salaries to do the work, or demand capacity building and workshops. They may easily be manageable because they obey orders, but I do not think all have the required skills to operate Naads. Even if they do, I do not believe it’s the role of the army to give advisory services to the farmers.
If we believe there have been issues in Naads, we have to face the reality and address those issues holistically. Otherwise, avoidance and pretence have never been solutions to any problem.
Naads and all other government programmes can do better only if they cease to be politicised.