The challenge of fighting poverty through farming

Wednesday September 2 2015

By Michael J. Ssali

It is good to reflect a little on poverty—the enemy we are all bent on eradicating from our lives mainly through farming. The majority of our people struggle against poverty as small-scale farmers in the rural areas.

More than 80 per cent of our population draws their livelihoods from agriculture yet the sector contributes less than 25 per cent of our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Poverty is a vicious evil that is hard to get rid of.

Peasant farmers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty, which by themselves are bound to keep them in constant poverty.

A poor farming household normally does not have adequate inputs to make its farm productive.

Such a household usually has a small piece of land and lacks the money to buy fertilisers, good quality seeds and pesticides.

Animal manure is a good and preferred alternative to artificial fertilisers but poor farming households do not keep enough livestock to supply the amount of manure needed for gainful crop production.

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A poor household tends to be food-insecure, is more likely to suffer from malnutrition-related health issues, and its members are not well suited to effective manual work on the farm.

A poor household engaged in coffee or grain production finds it hard to purchase items such as tarpaulin sheets or to construct cement yards on which to dry harvested crops. It ends up with low quality products that do not compete favourably in the market. Poor people have limited access to information about new farming skills and technologies.

They have no electricity; they cannot watching television and they use their radio batteries most economically, yet they cannot afford newspapers.

Poverty increases vulnerability to natural disasters such as hailstorm, drought, floods, and epidemics. When a crop disease like Banana Bacterial Wilt attacks an entire sub-county, the poor households usually lack alternative foodstuffs to eat. They may not be in a position to implement the recommended crop disease fighting measures such as buying tool disinfection solution.

They have no access to credit since they do not save money with credit institutions.

E-mail: ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

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