By Jeff Andrew Lule
Local Government leaders have expressed concern over the implementation of various agricultural programmes without suitable technologies and extension workers.
They argue that the Government will never realise its objectives of increasing production and improving the quality of agricultural products if farmers are operating rudimentary and without technical support to help them.
While making a presentation on the performance overview of the Agro-Industrialisation Programme, at Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel on Tuesday, agriculture ministry’s Alex Asiimwe said despite the various achievements of the first-year implementation of the programme 2021/2022, there has been a challenge of the inadequate technical staff to guide farmers.
He said the ratio of one extension worker to 1,500 farmers leaves many farmers unattended to, yet they need guidance on the best seeds and other inputs among other services.
“There has been a challenge of technical staff at the local government. The Government should facilitate the national and local government-level staff with critical facilities and logistics for effective performance. The current ratio of 1:1,500 is too high and needs to be addressed,” he added.
Pakwach district chairperson Robert Steen Omito said nothing can be attained without prioritising the agricultural technology shift.
“If we can’t provide tractors at the sub-county level due to financial constraints, then let’s plan for three tractors per district and give guidelines on how they can be utilised. The Government has injected multi-million shillings in Wadelai irrigation scheme in Pakwach and with a hand hoe, the scheme will turn into a white elephant,” he noted.
He added that in most cases, farmers work hard to produce enough as encouraged annually, but after the bulk production “the ones who motivate us run away”.
“I am also speaking not just as a leader, but also as a farmer. Why not support the large-scale farmers in districts to have capacity so that they can produce seeds at the various local levels?” Omito added.
Former agriculture minister, now a full-time farmer, Victoria Sekitoleko said the ministry needs to work with the private sector before implementing anything, to seek guidance.
“Can the Government stick to its policy of not doing business? So, if you have money for this investment, work with us, we can agree on where to have some of these facilities like the slaughterhouses, to ensure its sustainability,” he said.
Kalangala district senior agricultural engineer Amina Nalweyiso said it is among the districts which received the irrigation system, but that it remains nonfunctional.
Bugiri district production officer Moses Isiko said the commercialisation of agriculture is self-driven.
“Many farmers withdrew because of unstable prices. Is there a way we can help our farmers to cover the cost of production? Then industrialisation can take place because what they put in can be got. If a farmer is protected, commercialisation is automatic, they will go and buy inputs because they will need to increase their productivity,” he said.
He also wondered how one extension worker can work on 1500 farmers. “I think we need to align extension workers depending on the number of farmers we have. If we know that in Bugiri we have 10,000 households, then we say our average is 500 or 1,000 and we allocate 10 extension officers rather than having four extension workers who will not serve the purpose,” he added.
Commissioner water for production, at the water ministry, Eng. Gilbert Kimanzi said the degradation of water catchments and general environment, lack of maintenance of water bodies and rivers, inadequate protection of lakeshores, river banks and wetlands and inadequate enforcement of water and environmental laws and regulations continue to be the main causes of flooding and destruction of property including crops in the country.
He stressed that the impacts of climate change on water resources will have cascading effects on various sectors that directly depend on water, such as agriculture and food security.