Overtime, i have keenly followed the events,circumstances & processes under which OWC has operated. For a country(LDC) to attain a middle income status, agricultural is a key sector that must be priotised. However OWC has been a very poor intervetion in the process of modernising agriculture and consequently reducing the size of the subsistence sector which has stagnated at 68% for the last 20 years.
Blessed with vast land, abundant and cheap labor and a relatively stable climate, Uganda has failed to capitalise on its comparative advantage through OWC. OWC has become a fail because of centring its role in distribution of seedlings rather than addressing the structural problems that are limiting agricultural modernisation.
First and foremost, Uganda’s agricultural sector has been hindered by a limited market for products and the ever fluctuating prices. The producers at the farm always suffer from low prices because the middllemen capitalise of farmers’ ingorance and limited access to market to underpay for their produce. Thus too many small scale farmees have seen this as unprofitable thus majority have opted to sell their land to start retail businesses and boda bodas.
Secondly, there has been wideapread lack of extensional services. Each district has an agricultural officer but these officers do not visit local farmers to teach them how to improve on the quality of their products.
Limited research coupled with poor technology is another factor hindering the agricultural sector. During thr presidential campaigns, the incumnbet distributed hoes to farmers and this manifested his lack of desire to transform agriculture. People with vast land have failed to utilise such land because of the high costs incured using labour intensive technology in the long run. Reasearch is also limited and thats why our products are prone to drought, increased spread of pests and diseases among others..
Thus the OWC has kept a blind eye on the crucial aspects that it ought to address and has only looked at OWC in a political view through distributing the seedlings. Agricultural modernisation does not stop on distributing seedling but its a process till the products are consumed in the money market. Actually to transform agriculture, giving out free seedlings should be the least priority for any sensible government. Is it because people are too poor to buy themselves seedlings or the government has a pool of money to waste?.
It should be noted that free things do not motivate since they cannot create a sense of ownership and thats why we have seen many farmers consuming the seedlings.
The quality of the seedlings also remain highly questionable because of lack of open bidding for suppliers and the processes under which suppliers get tenders. This was demonstrated recently as Ntungamo residents burnt down the seedlings citing that they were already hit by diseases.
Therefore what did the government miss or ought to have done.?
1. Expand the market for agricultural products through establishment of agro-based industries. By doing this, it would add value in the products which would riise the prices of the products. An increase in the prices would motivate farmers to expand their production levels which would boast agriculture.
2-. Instead of distributing seedlings, the gov’t would increase access of quality seeds to farmers. With the president claiming to have been fighting poverty for the last 30 years, he would be scoring an own goal if he said that the masses cannot afford atleast 50,000 shs seasonally to plant. Once farmers buy their own seedlings, it increases a sense of ownership and would work hard to get something out of their sweat.
3-. Eliminate UPDF and instead employ professionals who will not only distribute the seedlings but also monitor, research about emerging diseases, offer sensitazation to farmers among others. The only role UPDF has dine is to distribute seedlings.
Just like Benin Biraaro said “Allowing UPDF to fo farmers’ job is like allowing farmers to do UPDF’s job”. UPDF lacks the expertise needed in addressing the growing challenges faced by farmers during production.
4. Invest more money in research and increase access to affordable capital technology such as machines. This reduces the costs of labor incured by the would-be large scalew farmers and also increases on the quality and quantity of output. Also research would enable farmers access drought resistant crops, offer quick soluntions to the ever emerging diseases etc..
5- Continuous training of farmers and increasing their access to affordable credit with government acting as security. Training of farmers requires the gov’t to employ more trained agricultural officers to extend extensional services to farmers. Once the gov’t increases access to credit, farmers would be able to apply better methods of farming such as use of pesticides and fertilizers and buting quality inputs.
Lastly in a bid for agricultural modernidation, i would like Uganda to emulate China’s dual track system where the gov’t would offer quality seedlings on credit and then after harvesting, the gov’t would find market for the farmers and buy the surplus. By empowering farmers, it bred into inclusive development and its one of the reasons China has grown at a higher rate.
Thus for Museveni to achieve his dream of a middle income status by 2020, he must review the objectives and processes under which the OWC operates.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY.