Agriculture is key to Uganda’s development

Farmers harvest onions in Chebombai Village, Amanang Sub-county, Bukwo District at the weekend. An irrigation project has doubled crop yields in the area. PHOTO | OLIVIER MUKAAYA

What you need to know:

  • The country is sitting on a gold mine that can spur economic growth and alleviate poverty if well utilised by planting both food and cash crops and engaging in animal husbandry on a commercial scale.

Uganda is endowed with fertile soil that, if well utilised, can transform the country into the food basket of East Africa and beyond. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Uganda’s arable land can feed 200 million people. The FAO report states that at least 80 per cent of Uganda’s land is arable but only 35 per cent is being cultivated.

The country is sitting on a gold mine that can spur economic growth and alleviate poverty if well utilised by planting both food and cash crops and engaging in animal husbandry on a commercial scale. If our land water and water resources are well utilised, cases of food shortage can be eliminated.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 70 per cent of Uganda’s working population is employed in agriculture. However, most of these farmers engage in subsistence agriculture using basic farming tools such as hoes and rudimentary methods. Farming in Uganda also heavily relies on rain, so when the rain delays agricultural activities are brought to a standstill.

Furthermore, many farmers plant poor-quality seeds that cannot give them good yields. Poor harvest handling and storage of produce, leading to wastage, also impede agriculture. Poorly stored crops are attacked by pests and infested by mould that renders them unsafe for consumption by both humans, poultry and livestock.

Last year, Kenya banned the importation of Ugandan maize, raising concern that it contained aflatoxins from moulds.

Many farmers also lack funds to purchase inputs such as quality seeds and pesticides. Financial institutions are reluctant to give them loans, considering this a high-risk venture.

The government has over the years introduced several programmes to improve agriculture in the country, with the latest being Parish Development Programme. However, all the previous programmes have performed dismally. The programmes have been marred by corruption, politicisation, and poor implementation, among others. Some progress has been made in areas such as irrigation, with the government establishing irrigation projects in some parts of the country such as the one in Chebombai Village, Amanang Sub-county, Bukwo District. (See Daily Monitor, Monday, November 28, “Irrigation boosts farming in Bukwo.”) The beneficiaries in Chebombai village are already reaping the benefits of this project, with their crop yields doubling and their household incomes improving.

The government should expedite the process to establish such irrigation projects all over the country. With irrigation, even semi arid regions such as Karamoja can produce enough food for its residents and have a surplus to sell to other places.To enhance commercial farming, people should be sensitised against land fragmentation and the government should do more to enable farmers access tractors to increase production. Government should also facilitate farmers to get funds to purchase inputs and ensure that agricultural extension workers are available to teach farmers modern farming methods.

With proper sensitisation, farmers can minimise wastage due to poor post harvest handling and storage, enabling them to earn more from their produce.

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