According to the National Development Plan, if the agriculture sector is to fully commercialise, farmers must be helped to access farm tractors.
“A tractor is a labor multiplier at the farm, because a single tractor can accomplish tasks in one day that would take 10 able-bodied men to accomplish in a month,” says Medi Mwiri, the marketing manager of Engsol. Engsol are a local importer of Massey Ferguson and TAFE tractors. They also locally fabricate tractor implements including trailers and some plough parts.
Engsol was also one of the sponsors of the 2022 Harvest Money Expo, where they showcased a number of farm equipment, which will help improve the levels of mechanisation on the farms across the country.
It is also worth noting that mechanisation is wider than farm tractors however. The term mechanisation includes equipment like grass cutters, incubators, harvesters, mechanical sprayers, milking machines etc.
Low usage of tractors
According to the agriculture ministry, usage of tractors by Ugandan farmers remains at just 2%, compared to around 12% in Kenya, 30% in South Africa and 90% in most farms in Europe. No wonder, production per unit is higher in country with more tractor usage.
One of the reasons for the low tractor numbers among farmers is that they are expensive. Indeed, on average, a 4WD tractor costs sh120m while 2WD tractors cost over sh90m including farm implements.
“There are no simpler ways of acquiring a tractor. To acquire a tractor, you will need to take your land to the bank as security and if you are not careful, you may even loose it,” says Emmanuel Mukasa, a farmer in Bowa, Nakaseke.
However, should the cost of a farm input stop farmers from accessing it? Experts think that a tractor should be acquired not just to work on the owner’s farm, but also as a business. If farmers acquire a tractor as a side business, then it will become easy.
Mwiri, explains that on top of helping the farmers quickly prepare their farms before the planting season, a tractor can bring in extra income when hired to other farmers. In places like Nwoya, some of the tractors are owned non-farmers who hire them out.
“Across the country, the average charge for ploughing an acre of land is sh120,000. So if the tractor works on five acres per day, then that is sh600,000 generated for the farmers,” he says. Mwiri says. He points out that rather than investing in taxis that get lost in accidents, people should invest in tractors because they are rarely destroyed. A tractor can last for as many as 50 years.
“If you are a farmers group engaged in agriculture, acquiring farm equipment is easy, since it is a matter of putting together your resources,” Mwiri, says.
Mwiri explains that one of the reasons why Ugandan farmers are not mechanising is lack of exposure to equipment. In terms of farm tractor, according to Ministry of Agriculture Anima Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), there are an estimated 1,700 tractors in Uganda, against a basic need of around 7,000 tractors.
“This is why we must applaud the Harvest Money expo. It has created exposure among farmers that actually owning a tractor is not rocket science,” Mwiri says.