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Agriculture Will Get Better

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The agriculture journey since Uganda attained independence has been a combination of success and failure. 

“God blessed Uganda with a wonderful environment. This is why for the most part since independence, the country has been organically fed by our fertile soils,” says Frank Tumwebaze, the agriculture minister.  

He explained that there were no major reports of hunger in any part of the country thanks to the ease at which farmers planted food, harvested and fed themselves. 

“The issue of food security was the first line of defence for each head of a home. Incidents of hunger have only come up due to the growth in the population which has affected land usage,” he says. 

According to Tumwebaze, in Uganda, agriculture is largely practised by private people. 

The government comes in to offer support in infrastructure development, for example, research and create an enabling environment for farmers to practice effectively. 

Tumwebaze says that to not only improve but also sustain production, the government has over the recent years carried out innovations, and infrastructure interventions that are changing the various farm practices. 

Through various research institutions, better seeds and other technologies have been introduced. These are aimed at improving production and in the long run reducing hunger. 

In the dairy sector, while milk was mainly sold raw or kept in pots it is now collected and stored in modern milk coolers located around the cattle corridor. Many of these have been handed out by the government. 

“Farmers have learnt that selling raw milk is not enough and are now processing this milk into products like yoghurt, cheese, butter, ice cream etc,” he says. 

More tractors needed 

Tumwebaze explains that the government is also giving out tractors to selected farmers and farmers’ groups because these are proven production multipliers. 

“Records indicate that there are about 4,000 tractors in the country and out of these at least 30% -40% are operational,” he says. 

There is a big deficit because the country requires at least 10,000 tractors to open up land, plant, weed, harvest or even prepare livestock feeds like silage or pump water for irrigation.  

The government has given out about 50 tractors in the last FY, and about 500 tractors in the last five years. 

“To achieve this, we need to give out at least 1,000 tractors per year of the varying capacity of between 35-50HP,” he says. 

This plan is, however, affected by the lack of funds to acquire the tractors at once. 

Farmers should diversify

Tumwebaze explains that as the sector grows and more opportunities open up, there is a need for farmers to diversify enterprises on their farms. 

“Proper enterprise selection is very important if farmers are to earn consistently. If a farmer has 200 acres and he is using all of it to keep 100 cattle, let him release 100 for other enterprises,” he says. 

Among others include fish farming for example, especially if part of the land is a swamp. 

“You can even grow coffee because it gives you a steady annual income, you can also grow maize for ease of feeding your animals, but in all this, make sure that you have got your calculations (ekibalo) right,” he says. 

Fighting ticks

According to Tumwebaze, the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI), the livestock research arm of NARO, is in the final stages of construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant in Nakyesasa, Namulonge. 

He says the vaccine efficacy is at over 50%.  

The facility is being constructed to international standards and will start production upon national and international accreditation. 

Ticks infest cattle resulting in blood loss, injury to the hides, tick worry, poor weight gain and most importantly transmission of diseases such as East coast fever, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Heartwater among others. 

These results in losses to the farmer and country estimated to be 1.1b US$ or sh3 trillion according to a study by senior academicians from Makerere University and NARO commission by the president in 2017.

The Anti-tick vaccine which will control ticks infesting cattle is developed by Uganda scientists from proteins conserved across several tick species.

The protein administered by injection will trigger the mass production of antibodies already present in cattle. The ticks infesting cattle will be unable to ingest and digest the blood meal making them weak for reproduction and eventually the ticks will die.

The Anti-tick vaccines are like the immune boosters of cattle’s natural defence system by prompting the production of more antibodies against ticks. 

If the vaccination of cattle is done in integration with acaricide application annually, then high tick infestations on cattle will be history in five years. 

Consequently, the widespread of tick-borne diseases will cease to be a problem and farmers’ income from sales of cattle, milk, beef and hides will increase, leading to poverty reduction among livestock farmers and related businesses along the value chain, added Kabi.

He adds that the losses incurred by farmers and the country in application and importing lots of chemical acaricides will be saved.

The facility is entirely funded by the government to the tune of sh14bn. 

In addition, the manufacturing facility will provide more research opportunities to NARO scientists to produce other livestock vaccines such as Foot and Mouth disease (FMD), and African Swine fever (ASF).

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