By Paul Watala
Small-scale irrigation scheme farmers in the districts of Pallisa and Ngora have continued to lag behind their peers owing to their inability to raise productivity,
This is partly attributed to the collapse of the agriculture extension service delivery.
Despite the potential of Uganda’s agricultural sector to diversify the economy, it is still fraught with a lot of challenges that have continued to limit the sector’s growth.
“Since this irrigation scheme started three years ago, extension agents have only visited our farmland twice,” George Nakeba, a farmer in Pallisa, says.
“I am still farming with the farming methods I learnt from my father. The extension agent that is supposed to teach me new techniques has only visited my farm once,” he adds.
Nakebas case is similar to farmers across the entire Bukedi, Sebei and Bugisu regions as the extension service system has been marred with a lot of challenges, especially in the area of manpower.
For more number of years, there has been no recruitment of extension workers and the few that are employed hardly visit or guide farmers. This has reduced the number of extension workers; with many approaching retirement age.
“The issue of manpower is a very big problem. There has been no recruitment of extension agents in some districts.” Pallisa natural resource officer Muhammad Samuka says.
“We have a situation where some districts have one agent serving over 2,000 farmers,” he adds.
According to Samuka, the country cannot improve farmers’ productivity when the ratio of extension workers to farmers is high.
Abdul Kirya, a tomato farmer in Pallisa says: “Any time the extension agents come, they pick selected farmers for training so that those farmers can come back and teach us what they have learnt, but most of the farmers come back and are unable to explain anything to us”.
Samuka called on the government to revive the agricultural extension service, saying it is the major way information is being disseminated to farmers mostly in the rural areas.