Kiburara’s simsim man and Frank’s take on agriculture

Author: Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

The emphasis should be placed on small holder farmers who will create food security and increase household incomes

Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, has drawn the attention of Mr Museveni to the possibility of nationwide food insecurity.

Mr Museveni responded to Mr Tumwebaze’s letter with charity and favour. I read the two letters (Frank’s letter and Museveni’s response) on social media. Although Minister Tumwebaze’s letter was not a detailed policy outlay, it however offered us a peep into his vision of the agriculture sector. The letter had an emergency relief ring to it.

At a personal level, I am not comfortable with a policy emphasis on situating the so-called big farmers at the vortex of the fight against food security. Suffice to say, the DNA of Uganda’s agricultural sector is built on small farm holdings. No wonder, Mr Museveni has been promoting a three-or-five-acre homestead holding as the basis for food security and household incomes.

The importance of agriculture to Ugandans is known in spite of the lack of political will to support it. If it takes the food insecurity scare to secure Mr Museveni’s bon volonte (French: goodwill) to put more resources into agriculture, we shall let be. But I am convinced we still need a clear policy outlay on agriculture, the centre of which should be the small holder (2 acre) homestead.

 By the gods, in spite of the attempt to make farming attractive by the clean heeled guys from the corporate world, the gravity of Uganda is agriculture as a socio-economic sector lies with the small farm holding.

To assume that big farmers will be symbiotically connected to the small holder homestead farming is misplaced. The emphasis should be placed on small holder farmers who will create food security and increase their household incomes. The so-called big farmers are disposed to growing for export.

When time comes for Mr Tumwebaze to draw a national policy projection for agriculture, I would advise him to consult and adopt Mr Museveni’s three-acre-homestead model. I prefer two-acre though.


My brother Arafat Asuman had two acres of sesame (sim sim) this ending season (March-July) from which he expected 500kg of fine grain. He had his last sale last Wednesday.

The first sale was 90kg (selling at Shs4,200 per kilogramme). The second sale was 126kg at Shs4,500 per kilogramme. The third sale of 114kg was at Shs4,300 per kilogramme. The fourth sale was 12kg which he sold at Shs4,200 per kilogramme. Total harvest was 342kg for Shs1,485,400.

Kiburara has a very unforgiving long drawn drought. Given this harvest (on Kiburara standards), this was a bumper harvest

Yet this is not a story of a village millionaire. It is the story of how sim sim is inadvertently being adopted as the food of choice in the lower lands of Bukonzo County of Kasese. Why? Because sim sim comes with some advantages: it’s not eaten by any animals (wild or domestic. I hear elephants don’t even step in sim sim field). It is not labour intensive (save at harvest time) requiring only thinning and weeding twice.

Arafat Asuman (the sim sim man of Kiburara) planted his sim sim on March 20 and made his last sale on July 20. On July 21, he ploughed his land ready for the cotton season (August-December). The biggest reason for the adoption of sim sim (a non-solid-food crop like maize and potatoes) is the failure of maize in Kiburara. Our people are slowly giving up on maize due to akayongo (a stubborn weed that defies all herbicides and cripples maize and many grass family crops). So,  what does Tumwebaze’s frank take on agriculture offer Arafat Asuman’s hard work? What are Arafat’s needs?

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. [email protected]