It’s public knowledge that the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) has failed. This contrasts sharply with President Museveni’s pet ‘UPDF success story’ using a leaner budget.
This, however, is not to say the UPDF has no fair share of troubled projects. But the ‘UPDF success story’ underscores the lost opportunities in government anti-poverty campaigns, including Entandikwa, Bona Bagagawale (prosperity for all), Nusaf and PRDP since 1996.
The government disburses Shs120b to districts for Naads activities every year to modernise agriculture in Uganda, increase household incomes and fight poverty. But this has showed no marked change in the lives of the rural Ugandans. President Museveni says a leaner sum of only Shs5b overseen by veterans has created a marked difference in their lives. Overall, the UPDF project has distributed 5,540,074 seedlings of coffee, 1,000,000 seedlings of tea, 230,324 seedlings of fruit, cassava, beans, and maize in Luweero triangle, and the Rwenzori region. In Mayuge, maize and beans have been distributed besides 68,390 seedlings of coffee to 102 families, and 5,000 seedlings of fruits to 37 families.
If the UPDF project, though in early stages, can deliver Naads, it is possible to translate the military efficiency in performance and success story into civilian implementation of Naads. We can borrow similar work ethics that is proving successful. It’s not uncommon for ‘military effect’ to be adopted with marked success in start-ups and other business operations. The military mode of operation, as proven in Israeli start-ups with great success and replicated globally, flattens hierarchy and elevates informality but when backed by innovative government policies.
Government should mould the UPDF veterans’ model, succession of stages, operations, processes and apply to public sector delivery of Naads to transform rural livelihoods. Nevertheless, we should not lose hope in public sector projects. It’s okay for government to lay off the Naads coordinators and substitute with already salaried district agricultural officers and sub-county extension workers to save costs.
This financial year, the government planned to invest up to Shs810 billion to extend the UPDF programme countrywide. If the UPDF can deliver Naads, the public sector can adopt such a model and deliver as well.
Public service bureaucracy should still be made to work.