By Umaru Kashaka
The agriculture ministry has a huge staffing gap of 4,908 extension workers, with the required number being 8,698, according to a report from Parliament’s budget committee.
The report is on the national budget framework paper for the financial year 2023/24 to that of 2027/28 that was presented to the entire House on Thursday (January 25) for consideration and approval.
“The committee is concerned that the recruitment of extension workers has stagnated at approximately 77%. The staff establishment in local governments provides for 8,698 extension staff of which 3,790 are filled, thus a staffing gap of 4,908 extension workers,” it said.
Extension workers are experts who advise farmers to improve their agricultural practices by checking crop failures, livestock diseases, pests and vectors.
They are also supposed to provide agricultural statistics, regulatory services, agricultural planning and quality assurance for food security.
In the absence of specific training in extension work, most countries, especially in Africa, recruit extension workers from a pool of graduates who have only studied courses related to agriculture.
The budget committee is chaired by Kachumbala County MP Patrick Opolot.
The committee said the budget for the district local government production services where this activity is housed has been reduced by sh124.76b in the financial year 2023/24 and the reason is that the money is channelled to the Parish Development Model.
The committee further observed that the agriculture ministry requires sh5.5b for the rollout of the e-extension systems for real-time information sharing and monitoring of extension services delivery to 60 districts across Uganda, but only sh0.5b (sh500m) is available in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework.
The committee, therefore, recommended that sh124.76b be reinstated to support production, marketing and extension.
MPs heard that the agriculture ministry, which is headed by Frank Tumwebaze, had spent sh22b on equipping agricultural extension workers with 25 vehicles and 1000 motorcycles.
It also heard that the ministry had spent sh48b on supporting the recruitment of 1000 agricultural extension workers.