Should farmers get free inputs?

Saturday October 19 2019


By Michael J. Ssali

A local newspaper last week published a comment about the recently released World Bank Report about the distribution of planting materials to farmers through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) under a programme coordinated by Operation Wealth Creation (OWC).
The report deserved the keen attention of everyone, especially those with a stake in farming. The World Bank believes that the practice of donating planting materials to farmers is unsustainable and wasteful since the inputs supplied are more expensive than the same items on the open market.
According to the World Bank, the cost of agricultural supplies to farmers is an average of $100m (about Shs5.1b) per year. The unit costs for supplies are higher than the prices of the same items by between 20 and 50 per cent.
The international financial institution also observed that the materials supplied to the farmers are of poor quality and that they are supplied to farmers without the farmers undergoing adequate preparation.
The report further criticised the government for allocating a mere 3.6 per cent of its annual budget to agriculture despite the sector’s huge contribution to the country’s economy.
For a farmer to succeed, there ought to be some amount of passion on his part for farming. The farmer should be in a position to choose which farming activity he believes will lead him to his dream economic status.
A keen farmer should be one who looks around for successful farmers to learn from and visits them to see how they do their thing.
He should be in a position to make sacrifices and to try hard to get the best planting materials instead of waiting for government donations. He should be ashamed of dependence on free inputs.
Fortunately there are some farmers who take the trouble to observe what planting materials successful farmers use and from where they get them.
Many coffee farmers in the Masaka region, for example, will not take plantlets nowadays just because they are free. On June 28 CBS Radio aired news reports that in Bukomansimbi District some 40,000 coffee plantlets supplied by OWC were rejected on grounds of poor quality.