More education for farmers' needs

Author: Mr Michael Ssali. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The farmer needs the skills and knowledge that they missed in school to come up with good yields. 

If agriculture is the backbone of our country’s economy, there ought to be sufficient evidence to show that we are paying corresponding attention to the sector’s development. Agriculture today is no longer just about the cultivation of the field in order to produce crops. 

Today’s agriculture includes taking care of livestock --- cattle, goats, sheep, apiary, rabbits, fish, poultry and a whole range of others. Today agriculture may also include-post-harvest practices and storage. 

The branches of agriculture are so diverse. They include soil scientists, entomologists, veterinary doctors, agricultural engineers, and agricultural economists.

About 70 percent of households in Uganda live in rural areas as farmers. Agriculture is the chief employer of our people, directly or indirectly. We depend on agriculture for raw materials such as sugar cane, tea, maize, coffee, hides, skins and fruits to be used in factories. 

Agriculture is the source of food in the form of crops, plants, meat, eggs, milk, honey, and fish. It provides foreign currency when we export coffee, tea, fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, skins and hides.

Mainly due to population pressure our form of agriculture has been carried out at subsistence level. It is done on small plots of land and in most cases farmers are trapped in poverty. 

The soil is depleted, the yields are low, the crops are under attack by pests, and there are climate change related hazards to contend with. Despite the economic importance of agriculture, not so much emphasis is put on its teaching in most schools.

There are too few functioning school gardens where the children can take practical lessons in farming. We end up with tens of thousands of young people coming out of school without the skills to go into gainful employment.  Yet as soon as they start roaming the cities and towns seeking employment our leaders tell them to go back to the rural areas and do some farming. 

The youths however have never been provided with the requisite farming skills. Too little of their time in school was given to farming lessons if any, since nearly half of our schools don’t have school gardens.

This is the reason why it is absolutely necessary for individual farmers and farmers’ organisations to gain skills and empowerment by provision of a vibrant agricultural extension service. The farmer needs the skills and knowledge that they missed in school to come up with good yields.

Michael Ssali is a veteran journalist, 
[email protected]