Sunday March 30 2014

Stop misleading farmers with wrong advise on crop production

By Pascal Odoch Farming

The Americans and Europeans who have bigger markets with effective demand, do not want any traces of neither fertilisers, pesticides nor fungicides in the crops export countries ship to their food-stores.

This is the message Uganda’s bureaucrats are not telling the resource poor farmers who are capable of organising themselves to seize such markets. What I observed at Mrs Kiiza’s three-quarter acre model farm in Masaka, when I was part of a West Nile leaders’ delegation on exposure visit sponsored by State House in 2007, was the need for replication to poor farmers in rural Uganda.

This farm is a model one in many respects. The entire biodegradable household waste is turned into compost manure and the farm productivity reflects in the combined Shs50 Million gross earnings per year.

Vacuum sealed solar dried fruits has ready premium price in Europe; Friesian cows generate milk and biogas fuel; dug-out pit store water run-offs used to support vegetable gardens year-round; a few bee-hives support pollination and honey production; the fish pond brings in revenue every six to nine months on fish harvest.

The activities at the farm resonate very much with happenings at typical homes across rural Uganda. There is no high-tech equipment that could challenge our illiterate farmers. The model farm depicts an ultimate prosperity for all arrangement as propagated by President Museveni to all resource-poor households.

One would expect this message to be propagated by the duty bearers so that we have many Mrs Kiiza’s type small-holder farms in all corners of rural Uganda, but to the contrary, we, the enlightened hardly draw such lessons for sharing with our villagers on whose behalf we trek to such lofty places to learn.

What is most interesting is that a crop of highly placed personalities who continue to masquerade as agriculture advisors believe that Uganda’s agriculture’s problem is lack of state funding to the sector and low fertilisers’ usage!

These same masqueraders frequently fly to America and Europe where they find Rugasira’s organic coffee (Good African Coffee) commanding a higher price tag on these countries’ supermarket shelves alongside other coffees.

You have Europeans engaged in contract simsim farming in Lango region and weekly ship-out container loads of organic simsim leaving Lango farmers smiling with premium price, all the time.

Both the organic simsim and Rugasira’s coffee farmers are not anywhere near Uganda’s poverty line drawing heavily on principles and practices propagated at Mrs Kiiza’s farm.

Each season, I see poor farmers in Nebbi district frantically looking for how to buy seeds and hoes as their immediate priority at each rainy season. The thought of fertilisers does not even cross their minds; some of these farmers don’t even have the money to spare for fertilisers.

Even where they buy such, as in the case of Cotton growers in Padyere County, you see deep disappointment at harvest time when the farm gate price is annoyingly low, i.e. Cotton farm gate price has never gone beyond Shs1,000-Shs1,200 per Kilogramme in the last three growing seasons!

And the people who masquerade as successful farmers yet misleading poor farmers have not only worked at the top echelons of agriculture and rural development sector but continue to hold government offices and heavily subsidise their own “model” farm activities through frequent use of government facilities especially fuelled cars to ferry animal drugs, seeds, and fodder, without which they would not be floating like Mrs Kiiza’s model farm that is successfully doing it without any subsidy, moreover cost-effectively.
Mr Odoch is a development consultant.