Minister, farmers disagree on Lango’s profitable crops

Sunflower is one of the most grown crops in Lango. PHOTO/BILL OKETCH

What you need to know:

  • This comes as government moves to implement the Parish Development Model.
  • Dr Aceng, who is also the Lira City Woman Member of Parliament, blames the persistent poverty in the Lango Sub-region on the consistent growing of soybean and sunflower

Farmers in Lango Sub-region are known for growing oilseeds, especially soybeans and sunflower as their main commercial crops.
In the last three decades, they have been growing these crops because of high demand by the mushrooming oilseed factories in Lira City.
Sadly, the crops have failed to get them out of poverty, according to Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health.

Dr Aceng, who is also the Lira City Woman Member of Parliament, blames the persistent poverty in the Lango Sub-region on the consistent growing of soybean and sunflower.

READ: Grain storage facility improves harvest efficiency in Lango
She said while they were discussing the kind of enterprises for Parish Development Model (PDM) during a Cabinet meeting recently, they were shocked to learn that a farmer growing soybean on an acre of land gets a profit of only Shs200,000 annually. The one growing sunflower on the same acre of land gets only Shs300,000 a year.
“When the minister got up to tell us how much an acre can give you out of the many produce we go in for, what really pained me was the issue of soya and sunflower, which many of our people have been growing for years,” Dr Aceng said during a stakeholders’ sensitisation meeting on PDM at Lira City Hall on Friday.

“After hearing this, I raised my hand and said, ‘Your Excellency, if this is the truth, why have the people of Lango never been told? His response was that ‘ask your leaders because a leader should be able to check global demand, the country demand and do the calculation,’” the minister said. She said President Museveni then advised those with more than four acres of land to plant soybeans or sunflower but said those with only an acre should do other profitable enterprises if they want to get out of poverty.

“Then I asked what about these industries in Lira; whether they actually contribute to the economy, and the answer was yes,” the minister explained.
However, the chairperson of Alito Joint Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Mr Christopher Okwang, refuted the claims by Dr Aceng.
The cooperative society, which has 14,816 members spread across 14 districts in Lango and Acholi sub-regions, specialises in growing soybeans and sunflower
Mr Okwang said most of their members have become prosperous through growing soybeans and sunflower because it is more rewarding compared to other cash crops.

What farmers say
“That is why we have specialised in growing soybeans and sunflower because the demand is so high and we do bulking and sell to the best buyers,” he said.
“The minister should have consulted us to find out the profitability of growing soybeans and sunflower before making blanket statements to discourage other farmers,” he added.

Ms Esther Apwot, a resident of Te-Opok Village, Lwala Parish in Okwerodot Sub-county, Kole District, said she has been in the soybean growing business since 2013.
She said out of growing the commercial crop, her family has been able to build a beautiful residential house, among other developments.
“I have been able to educate my five children. Two of them have graduated from the university. I have bought two acres of land, and acquired four oxen out of the money I got from growing soybeans. Right now, I have planted seven acres and my annual profit is normally Shs4 million,” she said.

Mr John Ssenyonga, the director of programmes at Heifer International Uganda, said their organisation has come out to support farmers in northern Uganda through Alito Joint Multipurpose Cooperative Society.
He said they have provided one tractor to the cooperative society to enable the farmers to do mechanised farming.

“We have also supplied the farmers with 300 micro irrigation kits called ‘the money maker’ because we know that farmers cannot rely on one source of income. So, they are diversifying. They can do vegetable and other horticulture related enterprises,” he said.
 

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