What you need to know:
The issue: Seedlings for farmers
Our view: More efforts should be directed at strengthening farmer organisations, and support in terms of proper management of resources and market access.
The past months have seen the cost of living in the country increase, particularly the high prices of basic commodities and cost of business. This has had a toll on the population, including farmers.
Worse, coffee and tea farmers have had to grapple with the uncertainty of not having enough seedlings ahead of the planting season. These sectors, especially coffee, are key to Uganda’s economy. We, therefore, welcome the decision by the government to release Shs30b towards the supply of seedlings to coffee and tea farmers.
According to the Finance Minister, Mr Matia Kasaija, the government shall release the money to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) based on the budget. The Finance ministry has been stalling on grounds that the modalities to monitor the supply, to ensure that the right beneficiaries receive seedlings were still in the works. This would have implied that farmers in need may not have received the seedlings on time to take advantage of the rainy season.
We hope that the remaining more than Shs60b will be released on time, through the Savings and Credit Associations under the Parish Development Model (PDM) per the finance ministry’s undertaking.
In the coffee sector, for example, efforts by farmers and other stakeholders in increasing production must be applauded. We believe the timely provision of the seedlings to those who need them will enhance that goal. Even as we fully support efforts to help farmers, we hope that proper analysis of the current and emerging challenges that farmers face in the country remains at the forefront of any efforts to support them.
Farmers face challenges including, information and communication technologies, climate change, and natural resource scarcity, especially water. They also grapple with low productivity. Managed well, we believe the move will enhance Uganda’s agricultural output which has a multiplier effect on very many sectors of our economy.
More efforts should be directed at strengthening farmer organisations, and support in terms of proper management of resources and market access.
A 2018 World Bank report proposes strengthening institutions to remove distortions to facilitate trade and enhance resilience through climate-smart agriculture and low-cost irrigation systems. The report adds that developments in agricultural technology and ICT, and agribusiness models offer opportunities to further transform livelihoods and the economy. In the last few months, we have seen African countries such as Kenya and Togo step up to support their farmers with inputs like fertilizers. History shows that programmes like this are prone to abuse including corruption with initiatives the government has a hand in.
We must also be alive to other underlying challenges facing Uganda’s agriculture sector as a whole in order to enhance productivity.
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