Lira. The government has procured 280 tractors under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) to help farmers engage in large scale commercial crop production, an official said in a meeting on Tuesday.
The tractors will be given to organised and registered farmer groups, associations or cooperatives in a given locality who will manage them on business principles.
Regional service centres will be established to extend services of maintenance and repairs closer to the beneficiaries. The suppliers of the tractors will ensure they provide specific training to the operators in operation and maintenance.
Motorcycles have also been purchased for extension workers at Namalere Agricultural Mechanisation Resource Centre.
The Naads executive director, Mr Charles Aben, confirmed the development, adding that beneficiary groups will be identified by districts.
He said the district allocation committee will select beneficiary farmer groups in their districts and send the list to the national allocation committee in Kampala for scrutiny.
“Some individual farmers or other value chain actors with capacity to act as models in communities may acquire tractors and implements for their own farm use as well as offer other farmers the tractor services at a fee that is competitive on the market,” he said.
Mr Aben noted that majority of farmers in Uganda are smallholders with a total land size ranging from two to five acres.
“Therefore, unless the land size is close enough to the capacity of the selected machinery by a particular farmer, it becomes economically unviable to use machines by a single owner,” he said.
Lira District production officer Thomas Okello said tractors may not even help the farmers engage in commercial crop production because each district may only receive about two or three tractors which cannot serve the entire district.
He said: “Jumping from hand hoe to tractor is not viable, what we are doing as Lira District is to distribute 10 ox-ploughs in each parish, to farmer groups in all the sub-counties to help people engage in commercial farming,” Mr Okello said.
Amolatar District production officer Francis Ojok said the implementation of agricultural mechanisation might not be easy because of land fragmentation. He said government should carry out a serious land reform policy so that the land for settlement and farms are gazetted.
The LC5 chairman of Dokolo District local government, Mr Fredrick Odongo, tasked the Agriculture ministry to facilitate the extension workers who were recently recruited in sub-counties to train the farmers.
Kwania District chairman Bazil Okello Onach said farmers were being forced by Naads to grow some of the crops such as coffee which are not favourable to the climate in Lango Sub-region.
“The only major crop which grows well here is cassava. We have made it a policy that each household should at least grow two acres of cassava to fight food insecurity,” Mr Okello said.
A model farmer, Mr George Ojwang Opota, however, said he started growing coffee in 2016, but at the start most of the seedlings dried up. But he kept on persisting and now he has 1300 coffee trees which he will start harvesting after three years.
Brig John Charles Anywar, Operation Wealth Creation director for tea, coffee and cocoa, noted that agriculture is not transforming the lives of the people because they are still stuck in growing old perennial crops.