Faint hope as Operation Wealth Creation limps on
What you need to know:
- Want out. A section of leaders from Oyam, Lira and Apac districts recently appealed to government to phase out the programme, saying it is keeping farmers in a vicious cycle of poverty.
COUNTRYWIDE. Three years after the implementation of the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) programme, farmers across the country are yet to see the benefits. Low quality seeds and poor management of the scheme are some of the reasons put across by stakeholders to justify their doubt of the programme’s success.
At this year’s Independence Day celebrations in Luuka District, President Museveni – the initiator of the scheme - revealed that half of the 122 million coffee seedlings distributed to farmers under the programme had dried up due to harsh weather countrywide.
While in Luweero District late last month, Mr Museveni appealed to beneficiaries of OWC to preach the success stories of the project as a way of poverty eradication in their homes.
He also demonstrated the drip irrigation method, adding that locals should devise means to irrigate their crops when the dry season comes.
A survey by this newspaper across the country has brought out an interesting narrative.
Under the OWC, government has supplied more than 100 heifers and tonnes of beans, maize, pineapples, coffee and rice seeds to farmers in Acholi sub-region.
In September, Gulu District officials rejected a total of 45,000 citrus seedlings worth Shs157m, arguing that they were delivered when the planting season was no more.
The district chairperson, Mr Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, argues: “Other seeds distributed under the programme have failed to germinate and we feel it is high time we inform the initiators of the project to improve on it rather than deceiving ourselves that it is doing well yet there is nothing on the ground.”
In Pader District, animals were given to district officials instead of the intended beneficiaries. Ten of the 34 animals supplied died after farmers failed to take care of them.
The district chairperson, Mr Godfrey Oringa Largo, says: “District officials became the beneficiaries yet they were not among [those] identified and in the end, the animals died since they had little knowledge on management.”
In Latany Sub-county, also in Pader District, mango seedlings were abandoned after the locals were tasked to produce National Identification Cards before receiving them.
The sub-county chairperson, Mr David Odokonyero, said he had forwarded their complaints to relevant authorities for better management.
Maj Charles Ojoma Okumu, who is in charge of the programme in Pader and Agago districts, criticised the decision to deny farmers seeds because they did not produce IDs. He, however, says locals need sensitisation on the importance of IDs.
In Omoro, the district chairperson, Mr Peter Douglas Okello, says they have put in place committees at both the district and sub-county levels so that the locals own the project and do monitoring among fellow farmers.
He adds that OWC officials should also scrutinise the companies tasked to supply inputs under the programme to avoid loss of money.
Recently, Ms Grace Kwiyucwiny, the State minister in charge of Northern Uganda Rehabilitation, faulted leaders in Acholi sub-region for poor implementation of the programme.
In Lango sub-region, late distribution of seedlings and seeds, favouritism, and corruption have marred the implementation of the programme.
Residents of Kole District reportedly rejected more than 80,000 citrus seedlings that were given to them last month, claiming they were supplied late.
In Apac District, three people were recently arrested after they allegedly messed up the distribution of 12,500 mango seedlings that were meant to benefit more than 200 farmers.
The suspects allegedly distributed the seedlings to “ghost” beneficiaries. They were later released on police bond.
In Lira District, it was discovered that some of the politicians and civil servants who got cows under the programme had already sold the animals. About 50 cows have been distributed to the beneficiaries in Lango sub-region.
However, the implementing officers at the district are quick to dismiss allegations of mismanagement as “nonsense”.
A section of leaders from Oyam, Lira and Apac districts recently appealed to government to phase out the programme, saying it is keeping farmers in a vicious cycle of poverty.
Mr Willy Omodo Omodo, a former National Resistance Movement (NRM) youth vice chairman for northern Uganda, has threatened to mobilise the youth to demonstrate over what he terms as corruption and mismanagement in the implementation of OWC.
Mr Omodo alleges that the programme is benefiting a few government officials, contrary to the OWC’s guidelines.
The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, says harsh weather and poor mobilisation of farmers at grassroot level by the technical people are some of the challenges that urgently need to be addressed.
“We need to do a lot in the next phase of the programme to combat the poor weather by integrating and emphasising irrigation alongside fertiliser application in whatever crops that are grown. The technocrats like at sub-county and district levels need to carryout proper sensitisation and trainings among farmers,” he says.
In Kabarole District, farmers rejected lemon seedlings.
The OWC coordinator for Burahya Constituency, Maj Deo Rubaale Kajwara, says the famers wanted orange seedling instead.
Other seedlings were dumped at Mugusu Sub-county headquarters in the same district, but sources told Sunday Monitor that the supplier came at night and took them. We haven’t independently verified this allegation.
In Kamwenge District, the district agriculture officer, Mr Naboth Kamubona, rejected more than 2,000 mango seedlings “because they did not meet the quality standards.”
The seedlings were distributed by Mecron Enterprises Limited, which was contracted to supply 1 million seedlings.
Mecron Enterprises Limited had already supplied 60,000 seedlings.
Maj Duncan Magezi, the area OWC coordinator, says the rejected seedlings will not be accounted for during the processes of paying the supplier.
In Kamwenge, Kasese and Kabarole districts, more than 10 dairy cows distributed to farmers under the programme died due to negligence.
According to the officer-in-charge of OWC in Kamwenge District, Maj Duncan Magezi, in December 2015, they distributed 100 Fresian cows. Maj Magezi attributes the death of the animals to the failure by the beneficiaries to follow the guidelines of managing them under zero grazing.
“Some of the beneficiaries are unable to afford even the cheapest veterinary drugs, while others rush to my office demanding drugs that the district can’t provide,” he says.
In Fort Portal, the High Court is hearing a case in which the Kamwenge District senior agricultural officer, Mr Clever Muhumuza, is being accused of alleged conflict of interest after involving himself in the supply of items.
In August, Ms Sarah Kagingo, the OWC spokesperson, was shocked when she made a visit to Rwenzori sub-region where tea, mangoes and coffee seedlings that government paid for were not delivered.
In the same month, OWC launched an operation in Rwenzori sub-region code-named “Fagia uwizi’—Kiswahili for ‘flash the thieves’ that implicated some government officials in the fraud, especially in the supply chain.
“Money spent ends in people’s hands leaving no impact on the ground. We shall not leave any stone unturned this time but we have a major challenge of political interference,” Ms Kagingo says.
Government, under OWC released coffee seedlings worth Shs4 million to Kasese District for the July to November 2015 season and coffee seedlings worth Shs6.9 million for the March to May 2016 season, totaling to Shs10.9 million but Fagia uwizi team did not find the coffee trees.
“It is unbelievable that Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) officials have been creating ghost nursery bed operators and farmers and government has been spending money on non- existent people,” Ms Kagingo says.
Fagia Uwizi has found that an UCDA official, Ms Muhindo Beneth Misaki, allegedly forged the signature of Busongora South Constituency OWC coordinator, Lt Col Medhi K. Baguma and endorsed the supply of 32,100 coffee seedlings equivalent to more than Shs16 million to 65 farmers in Bughalista village in Rukooki Sub-county in Kasese District. The seedlings were reportedly supplied to a one Brenda Masika as a nursery bed operator, who does not exist.
Government pays Shs500 for each coffee seedling.
In Kabarole District, Fagia Uwizi found that UCDA did not supply good quality seedlings to farmers.
Ms Florence Musiime, a resident of Isunga Sub-county, where coffee seedlings were dumped, said the seedlings were brought in mid-June when there was too much sunshine and farmers were not prepared because there was no rain.
In Bushenyi District, the district chairman, Mr Jaffari Basajjabalaba, says the district received eight million tea seedlings, 1.3 million coffee seedlings, 400,000 seedlings of passion fruit, 56,000 orange seedlings, 200 bags of Irish potatoes, 200,000 pineapple suckers and 30 heifers, which are projected to benefit about 20,000 farmers.
He says in Nyabubare Sub-county, OWC official took the heifers meant for the youth and it took their intervention for the animals to be returned.
“There was a challenge of unfair distribution of heifers whereby OWC officials diverted the heifers meant for the youth and instead took them to their homes,” he says.
According to the district agricultural officer, Mr Amon Natwebembera, the programme had many command centres.
The leaders also told Sunday Monitor that OWC suppliers connived with the beneficiaries to acknowledge receipt of inputs whereas they were not supplied and the government ended up paying ghost beneficiaries.
Mr Natwebembera wants provision of inputs to be broadened to cater for small-scale farmers who suffer challenges of limited land, low income and low soil fertility unlike the current system of giving to farmers with big land acreage.
Looking at the general performance of the programme in Bushenyi District, the leaders are optimistic that production may increase mostly in areas of coffee and tea in a period of two years as a result of increased acreage and supply.
In Mbarara District, 10 out of the 166 heifers given out died.
The district veterinary officer, Dr William Mwebembeza, attributes the death of the cows to lack of sensitisation from extension workers in various the sub-counties.
“Delays by the government to recruit extension workers at sub-county level to give advisory services was a setback to farmers,” he says.
The Mbarara District agriculture officer, Mr Robert Tumwesigye, says the the programme is failing in Mbarara Municipality due to lack of extension workers who would make regular monitor the programme.
The OWC coordinator for Mbarara, Maj Sam Murali Karogo, said the district received 2,350,000 coffee seedlings, 55,000 kg of maize seeds,3,640,000 tea seedlings, 18,970 kg of bean seeds, 1,380 bags of cassava stems, 16,520 mango seedlings, 650,000 pineapple suckers and 1,000 seedlings of eucalyptus and pine trees.
Authorities in Tororo District have suspended supply of 85,OOO citrus seedlings under the OWC programme.
The chief administrative officer, Mr Christopher Sande Kyomya, says they took the decision after specialists advised them on the weather.
He added that the decision also accrued from the past experiences where distributed maize, beans, cassava cuttings and coffee seedlings dried up due to late deliveries.
Of the 193 heifers the district received, 10 of them have so far died and two have been sold off by the beneficiaries.
Mr Koyomya says the programme has partly been frustrated by the beneficiaries themselves who have a poor attitude and suppliers who deliver the supplies during off-season.
“There is also need to improve on the coordination between the districts and central government. At the moment, the coordination is not all that pleasant,” he says.
Recently, the district council called for a special audit into the programme following reported fraud reflected in the implementation of the programme. The district authorities blame the programme failure on its implementers.
The officials also accuse the implementers of replacing the names of the selected beneficiaries with their relatives’ names.
In Soroti District, beneficiaries of OWC are counting losses after thousands of distributed orange and mango seedlings dried up.
Mr James Epitu, one of the beneficiaries and a resident of Gweri Sub-county, says the programme is only benefiting the suppliers, whom he accuses of supplying poor quality seedlings.
He advises government to contract suppliers at the regional level, not from Kampala. He says sometimes the seedlings arrive when they have withered and when the farmer plants them, they die within a few weeks.
According to the records at Soroti production department, at least 60 per cent of the distributed seedlings have dried up in the first and second season of farming in Teso sub-region.
Soroti Resident District Commissioner John Stephen Ekoom admits that the reason the seedlings dried up is because they were distributed when rains were over and farmers could not water them.
OWC coordinator in Kalaki County, Kaberamaido District, Capt Franco Elianu, however, says though there are challenges in the programme, some farmers have generally neglected the programme because they have failed to own it.
“Yes, we understand the weather generally is bad but there are some farmers who are also very careless and have negative attitudes towards the programme,” Capt Elianu says.
Meanwhile, Ms Deborah Engicu, a local farmer from Atiira Sub-county in Serere District, says government should facilitate farmers to plant their own seedlings, arguing that the ones they receive under the programme don’t grow because they are of poor varieties.
The Jinja District chairperson, Mr Titus Kisambira, says unlike in the past, beneficiaries are asked to take seedlings of their choice. He adds that people now demand for seeds whose yields will give them competitive advantage over others, depending on their unique environment.
Weighing on the matter, the Kaliro District chairman, Mr Wycliffe Ibanda, says there is need to train the staff involved in the supply chain and strengthen the coordination aspect.
Compiled by Cissy Makumbi, Tobbias Jolly Owiny, Bill OKetch, Felix Warom, Scovin Iceta, Peter Aligo, Peace Giramia, Clement Aluma, Joseph Omollo, Fednand Tuhame, Felix Basiime, Joseph Eigu, Joseph Onyango, Scovia Atuhaire, Zadock Amanyisa, Robet Muhereza, Abubaker Kirunda, Moses Okeya &
Ismail Musa Ladu.
About the programme
Operation Wealth Creation is intended to create a system that facilitates effective national socio-economic transformation with a focus on raising household incomes for poverty eradication and sustainable wealth creation.
The programme replaced National Agriculture Advisory Services (Naads) officially in 2014, after Mr Museveni relieved Naads officials of their duties on allegation that they had failed to fight poverty among the populace.
West Nile region
Leaders from various districts in the sub-region have continued to reject seedlings being supplied to farmers under the programme.
Late last month, leaders in Moyo District rejected citrus seedlings and cassava cuttings because they were supplied in the off-season and would not germinate well.
The Moyo District chief administrative officer, Mr Grandfield Omonda, says the seedlings and cassava cuttings should have been supplied at the beginning of rainy season.
“We have not acknowledged receipt of these seedlings because the rain normally ends around November. How will the farmers plant these and benefit when they are supplied off season?” he asks.
The Moyo District chairperson, Mr Williams Anyama, said the district cannot take responsibility for the seedlings.
“The head office ordered for more than 5,000 citrus seedlings and 200 bags of cassava cuttings for Moyo District but there was gap in coordination with the district production sector and our farmers are not even ready for planting in this period,” Mr Anyama says.
In Koboko District, Mr Isaac Todoko, the district secretary for production and natural resources, says this is not the first time the district is receiving agricultural inputs off season. “How can the secretariat supply us with seedlings at the end of the rainy season? We should be mindful that this is tax payers’ money that is being wasted,” Mr Todoko asks.
The councillors rejected the the 100,000 grafted mango seedlings because they were supplied after the planting season.
The Koboko District chairperson, Mr Hassan Nginya, says he advised suppliers to study and understand the climatic changes of each region before supplying the seedlings.
The approved varieties of mango seedlings for West Nile region include, Tommy Atikinns, Ziallet, Keit, Kent and Palvin.
Last year, farmers in Arua District rejected more than 500 bags of cassava cuttings because they had already dried up. Some of them were not cut to the standards for effective germination.
The seedlings and the cassava cuttings have now been abandoned at various sub-county headquarters.
Laropi Sub-county received more than 45 bags cassava cuttings to be distributed to the farmers but due to late delivery, the cuttings have dried up at the sub-county headquarters after farmers rejected them.