Farmers will benefit more from joint ventures than individual efforts
Posted Friday, January 11 2013 at 02:00
It is true that many farmers continue to be discouraged by the low prices of agriculture products and there are hardly any guarantees to ensure protection of farmers against price fluctuation. These are the realties in the agricultural sector which continue to impact negatively on productivity in Uganda.
Experience shows that there is need to mobilise farmers to speak with one voice and put forward their requirements to government, private sector and other actors. It is clear that majority of farmers act as individuals, not as a mobilised category yet experience elsewhere shows that once farmers are able to have a common voice, it’s possible to benefit from the fruits of their labour. This has happened in Kenya where due to demands from small scale coffee farmers, Government changed the policy on selling coffee by auction that resulted into better prices of coffee to the benefit of small scale coffee farmers.
Similarly in Uganda, sunflower and cotton growers in the North continue to complain that before the planting season, farmers are urged to plant on a large scale where the produce will be bought at about Shs3000 per kilo. Come harvest season, farmers get offered as low as Shs1200. The difference is that in Uganda, farmers continue to playing as individuals thereby making it easy for other players not to respect contracts already entered into with farmers. This is why we need supply and demand factors to have a compromise in terms of having a common farmer’s voice to call for change that in turn gets responded to by the Government and the private sector.
It is so disheartening to hear farmers narrate the trends they have experienced through agriculture ups and downs from the past where prices were regulated under cooperatives to the current period with very uncertain and low prices with no sense of regulation at all. As a result, some people are slowly giving up growing certain crops.
For example in Kamuli District cotton growing has gone down, food crop growing has gone down in favour of cash crops like coffee, sugar cane and food crops that bring in cash. All these factors combine to keep agriculture unattractive to young boys and girls yet it would contribute to solving youth unemployment.
Altogether, in addition to what the Government (including NAADs), the private sector and NGOs are currently offering in agriculture, the factors raised are practical realities in agriculture that together with other factors must be addressed if we are to move Agriculture to another level. This will then turn Uganda into a regional food basket thereby bettering the life of farmers and farming communities.