Farm security, a neglected practice

Saturday July 17 2021
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By George Katongole

Many farmers learn farm security the hard way, but you don’t have to. All progressive farmers ought to protect the critical assets by imposing security measures earlier before actually starting out of necessity.

Why security?

The obvious reason is to ensure farm equipment and produce safety but also prevent diseases and pests.

According to Charles Mulwana, who has been a farm manager for more than 10 years before he became an independent farmer in Nakifuma, Mukono District, security is worth the cost. Mulwana explains that farmers should take into consideration safeguarding their property starting from the awareness of the owner and farm workers.

In some areas, farmers trust witchcraft for security. Endless stories keep seeping through of farmers that use black magic to deter intruders. This is not scientifically proven as it simply creates a fear factor.

How to secure your farm

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There are both sophisticated and simple methods of securing your farm. Mulwana says that the most important thing is to plan depending on the budget. Right from the beginning, farm security should be budgeted such that if there are items to be phased, the priority list is prepared in earnest.

Surveillance systems

Mulwana explains that with the current technological trends, the first priority should be put on surveillance as it saves a lot of time. The most obvious surveillance is installation of security cameras only that they can be breached in case of an inside job. There are obviously a number of service providers for surveillance technologies. Jaguza App is one of them. Ronald Katamba, the innovator of Jaguza Farming App, says the surveillance system remotely works with smart phones or computer systems. The software is capable of working remotely with a block chain traceability system. “You can identify your cow and can easily be identified wherever the cow goes with all its records,” he says. The app is free and there are no monthly subscription fees. One simply downloads it from Play Store.

Equipment marking

It is so easy to lose equipment or animals because they cannot be identified. It is therefore important to have serial numbers inscribed on farm equipment. For animals, tags are an option. This marking should be done hand-in-hand with an inventory that keeps the serial numbers along with the model, number, type of machinery, brand, cost of purchase, estimated value and year of manufacture.  “Having an inventory is key to any farm management practice. It is not only a security precaution but can help a lot in managing diseases,” Mulwana says.

Lights

Key areas of the farm and critical assets must be properly illuminated. Thieves will always make off with valuable smaller equipment that is easy to move.

To save power, motion sensor lights can be a great investment instead of turning on the lights each night. Additionally, with increasing criminal activity on farms, farmers must invest in lock systems. Some locks have alarms that can set off at any intrusion. This is complimented with a log book tracking the visitors to your farm.

Guards and dogs

“I have twice tried growing vanilla but it scares me. You are in tension right from the time of planting until you harvest,” James Mugerwa, a mixed farmer in Mukono says. There is extra suffering for vanilla farmers in the country who spend sleepless nights guarding their precious crop. Thieves can harvest both immature and mature vanilla beans. Farmers spend up to Shs350,000 monthly on private security guards. Guards armed with bows and arrows are paid about Shs120,000.

Farmer groups

Farmers tend to be very friendly people especially to customers who keep coming in and out. Some actually are acquaintances that come to borrow equipment. Yet this could be the weak line to lose valuable equipment. One way is to find a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on things for you or alert local police whenever you are not around.

Vigilance

According to Mulwana, a farm manager’s vigilance is key. He says that the most important issue is ensuring workers stay at the farm.  He explains that if a worker steals from the farm, for instance two kilogrammes of feed every day, it can accumulate to 14kg weekly. In a month, that is about 60kg. “You end up making significant losses,” he says.

Vigilance also requires fixing all weak links especially at the dust bins where workers may drop some stuff pretending to be waste. Broken fences should also be mended.

Insurance

Apart from guarding against the impact of natural hazards on crops and animals, there are numerous insurance companies that have tailor-made policies that cover farm assets and equipment. Insurance can cover part of the cost of replacing stolen equipment.

Ten insurance companies in Uganda are part of the Agro Consortium, a platform that offers agriculture insurance. Under the kungula product, the premium rate is 2.5 per cent of the sum insured but also depending on weather patterns in particular regions.  Jubilee Insurance, for instance, has a crop insurance policy that protects a farmer against crop loss due to natural disasters such as hailstorm, drought, floods, pests, malicious damage, fire, as well as theft regardless of the nature and size.

Gold Star Insurance offers an instant quote online after verifying personal details, farm products and coordinates of the farmland.

On-farm biosecurity

Of course, it is not just equipment that is at risk. Farmers spend a lot of money on treating diseases that would otherwise be avoided. That is why biosecurity is a key element of farm security.

Mulwana explains that bio-security is a mandatory precaution in case of farm visits to reduce the risk of disease, chemical residues and pests.

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