Saturday August 23 2014

Assembling vehicles is a good step for UPDF

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) early this week unveiled seven new infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) that it had built from old wreckages of South African-made personnel carriers [aka Mambas] and locally fabricated parts, signaling another milestone in the army’s quest to provide home-grown solutions to its operational needs.

It should be noted that the UPDF in the early 1990s embarked on the manufacturing of bullets and repair of rifles at its Luweero industries at the time when the army was involved in major combat operations in northern Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and in DR Congo against remnants of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

This did not only save the country a lot of the much needed foreign currency that would otherwise have been used to import bullets from abroad, it also gave the army a level of independence and certainty because then it could not be affected at a very basic level by any international arms embargo.

Now that the Motorised Infantry Brigade based at Magamaga has demonstrated that it is up to the job to find local engineering solutions to some of the army’s problems, this ingenuity needs to be extended to other areas like agriculture, where the President has recently deployed officers and men to replace Naads officers and drive the farming extension programmes, could provide the first area of experiment.

Specifically, one of the biggest obstacles to the achievement of commercial agriculture as well as expanded household production is the hand hoe which has remained the primary tool of rural cultivation since the Europeans colonial administration.

Liberating the peasant from the hand hoe (which has become a tool of enslavement by poverty) to a motorised means of production would drastically change course of agriculture in this country.

Yet the diesel tractors remain expensive and unaffordable at a mass scale. Besides they do not make economic sense on small household plots.

The army engineering unit might, therefore, wish to consider adapting the boda boda engine to drive traction on small household gardens – something which was in the past driven by the ox plough.

This could play the same role as the walking tractor which the Chinese and Indians adapted from Europe and has transformed those countries’ agriculture, enabling them to be self-sufficient in food production and even producing surplus for export.

Yes in many developed countries, the army always leads in innovation and a lot of their innovations are eventually adapted for civilian use. The UPDF too can do it and there is no better time to start than now when the President has put all his faith – rightly or wrongly – in the military establishment to transform agriculture.