Farm thefts and their effect on farming


What you need to know:

  • Large scale farmers have the capacity to minimise farm thefts by surrounding their farms with electric fences or employing armed security guards.  

Farm thefts are mainly a phenomenon of small-scale farming where people operate on small plots of land in crowded communities. It mostly takes place in situations where some people own land that can be committed to agricultural production when many others have no sufficient land for productive and profitable agriculture.

Farm thieves can be categorised along with pests, parasites, birds, and rodents that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates to be responsible for up to 40 percent of global farm losses.

Farm thieves are a big nuisance to the farmer because they sneak into the farm and make off with some of the farmed crops, livestock, and other farm products such as eggs and fruits that the farmer’s household would consume or sell for cash.

Large scale farmers have the capacity to minimize farm thefts by surrounding their farms with electric fences or employing armed security guards. Small scale farmers normally don’t have such protection. Yet their farms are located in the midst of hungry poor people, many of whom are not willing to work. For us who live in congested rural areas it is no longer uncommon to hear about cases of police dogs tracing suspected thieves of bananas, coffee, or this and that commodity.

Every effort must be made to fight farm thefts. When a hard-working farmer has a crop like coffee growing very well, he worries about the possibility of thieves going into his garden and harvesting the crop before he does. 

He has personal issues like his children’s school fees to sort out. He must wait for the coffee cherries to be really ripe before picking them because that is the law governing coffee production. 

However, if the thieves steal the crop even before it is ripe he gets disturbed and next time he loses the patience to wait for the coffee cherries to get ripe before harvesting them, which compromises our national coffee quality. 

Farmers who continuously lose crops to thieves have difficulties feeding their families on a balanced diet. Farm thefts compromise food security, nutrition, and poverty reduction efforts.

The items lost to thieves include cows, small animals like goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and poultry. 
These are the real reasons why the farmer is in business and when they are stolen the business is gone. No milk, no eggs, no manure, no meat to sell.

Michael J Ssali is a veteran journalist.