By Herbert Musoke and Joshua Kato
Eric Sabiiti, the Managing Director of NEEMA mixed farm Ltd in Kabarole walks with a swagger, thanks to a set of value-adding equipment that his farm received in June 2022.
The equipment included a mini dairy processing facility, milk coolers, tractors, maize mills etc.
“At NEEMA farm, we are farmers who also add value to our products by processing things like yoghurt, ghee, and fruit wine among others. We also buy from other farmers around us. This processing plant, therefore, will help increase our capacity and thus that of community farmers,” he said.
NEEMA farm is one of the beneficiaries of several agricultural inputs, thanks to NAADS.
Over the years, NAADS has provided extension services, given out farm inputs and then equipment that helps farmers add value to their products.
The inputs given to farmers under the wealth creation initiative include both planting and livestock materials including maize seed, tea seedlings, mango seedlings, bean seed, cassava cuttings, sweet potato vines, dairy cows, pigs, poultry etc, and in all these sub-sectors, there has been significant growth over the last 10 years.
Because of this, it became necessary to add value to the products in order to earn more from them.
NAADS expanded the scope to include value addition equipment including milk coolers, maize mills, feed mills and their structures, mini dairy processing facilities, rice mills, and coffee hullers among others.
Other interventions for agricultural transformation include tractors, solar water pumping systems, grain stores and much more.
The journey of NAADS
The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) was initiated in 2001 as one of the pillars of the plan for the modernization of agriculture.
NAADS has thus been in existence for the past 21 years and has greatly contributed to the transformation of agriculture and the improvement of people’s livelihoods.
Dr. Samuel Mugasi, the Executive Director of NAADS explains that NAADS has gone through several changes aimed at strengthening and transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercial agriculture that can be a string-board for the improvement of household incomes leading to the growth and development of the national economy.
At first, it was responsible for giving out extension services to farmers.
“At that time, we had two extension workers at the sub-county; one in charge of crops and the other in charge of livestock and at times we would have one for fisheries according to the uniqueness of the district and the overall coordinator was at the district,” he explains.
It also had a concept of working with model farmers who were learning centres for others in communities, but also developing farmer institutions.
“Working through those groups, NAADS introduced many new technologies in crop varieties like bananas, beans, cassava and livestock like goats, pigs among others. The technologies that came out of research by NARO were popularized by NAADS through our farmer groups,” he says.
Improved access to agricultural inputs
It’s important to note that, at the time, farmers were procuring their inputs.
He explains that NAADS used to send money to the districts and then community procurement committees accredited by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) through which farmer groups would procure their inputs mainly for the demonstration, not mass distributions as it has been lately.
“In this group, we saw an increase in adoption of new technologies like new varieties, strengthening farmer institutions and also promotion farming as a business,” Mugasi stresses.
“In that project, we had a close interface with NARO from the sub-county, district to the national levels. It helped a great deal because it helped to re-enforce NAADS phase one,” he explains.
He explains that they realized farmers are not at the same levels and thus categorized and then would support them accordingly where they support food security farmers in maize, beans and also business/market oriented farmers. It was at this time that value addition started.
As NAADS ushered into phase three, they started procurement from the centre and more coordinated and also started priority commodities; coffee, tea, cocoa, fruits, dairy, fish, cassava and bananas among others but based on a zoning system.
Kigezi was focusing on tea and irish, Greater Ankole; livestock, bananas, tea and coffee and Buganda; banana, coffee, livestock and fruits, Northern; cassava, fruits and livestock among Eastern coffee, fruits and sorghum others.
Contribution to the economy
He explains that despite the challenges, NAADS activities have contributed to the reduction in the household living under subsistence from 68% to 39%.
Also, at the macro-economic level, agriculture has been growing as the UBOS shows that in the first quarter of 2019/2020 it grew by 9.1%.
He says that agriculture can transform Uganda’s economy if the value chains are developed especially the development of agro-industries and also take advantage of the regional markets.
Mugasi says that NAADS still has a lot to offer in the transformation and development of agriculture in the country because it has been building value addition facilities like milling equipment, and milk coolers.
Therefore, it can re-enforce government programs like PDM by linking farmer groups to value addition centres and markets.
“Because PDM is designed for the poorest, then NAADS can now cater for the group that is not benefiting from it. By filling this gap, we will be building sustainable value chains because PDM will succeed if the value chain is developed as the small farmers can hook onto the bigger farmers we will have supported,” he explains.
Mindset change is one of the biggest challenges in transforming agriculture as some farmers are still stuck in the subsistence farming system, waiting for handouts, not wanting to invest in the enterprise yet they want high returns.
Mugasi explains that the other challenge is accessing quality inputs even though NAADS has managed to procure quality planting and livestock but other inputs like chemicals and fertilizers may fail them.
“We still have limited access to the extension system because of the high farmer-to-extension workers where the ratio is currently 1 farmer to 1500 yet the recommended ratio should be 1 extension worker to 500 farmers,” he explains.
What the future holds for NAADS
Mugasi says that they are following global trends on crops with higher market demands like macadamia, avocado and tea because they are perennial crops.
“We have discovered that regions like Buganda and the west have been better than other regions like the north because they had perennial crops like coffee, cocoa, tea and banana,” he says.
He explains that they have zoned the country and they are coming out with areas where they will be supporting those new high-value crops starting with Hass avocado and macadamia, but working under the nucleus model and keeping its role in value addition and advisory role.
“We celebrate with all Ugandans, the 60 years of independence where we have contributed 30% of this independence journey in agriculture. We are the longest outstanding government post-independence intervention which is a great achievement and the footprint of NAADS has been across Uganda and will continue playing this role to the future,” he says.