By Ronald Kalyango
Spouses and female officers of the police, prisons and Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) have received sh1.5bn from government to kick start massive agricultural production in their respective areas.
The funds sourced from the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) secretariat are expected to be spent before the end of this financial year.
The NAADS executive director; Dr. Samuel Mugasi explained that the support will be used to procure poultry, pigs, fish fingerings, mushrooms among other enterprises.
“The role of the a productive army can’t be underestimated in national development given the benefits that come along with it such as increased productivity, profitability, improvement of individual family welfare of soldiers,” explained Mugasi.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony of the support at Hotel Africana, the senior presidential adviser on defence, Gen. Salim Saleh called for massive production of agricultural produce to satisfy the available market.
“At long last today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the country's agricultural sector. For the first time I think I can offer my defence for the NAADS programme not to be scrapped,” said Saleh.
Saleh challenged implementers of the NAADS programme to always support farmers with tangible farm inputs, to create the needed impact in the sector.
“Organised farmers should be given enough support in form of inputs, fertilisers and advisory services on the available market opportunities for their produce,” said Saleh.
The meeting was attended by the chief defence forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala, the inspector general of police; Gen. Kale Kayihura, the deputy director general of prisons, James Mwanje, senior UPDF, Police and Prisons officers.
On his part, Wamala, asked NAADS to start providing small scale irrigation equipments to farmers to enable them produce throughout the year.
“We welcome this support but my concern is about the small-scale farmer who can't irrigate their gardens during the dry-spells. How can NAADS as an organisation help such farmers? He asked.
The Inspector General of Police; Gen. Kale Kayihura noted that sustainability of the project will be one of their biggest challenges.
“We need to develop a sustainable programme that will enable not only the spouses but the entire forces to access resources to improve their household incomes,” said Kayihura.
He observed that the initial support of 1,500 broiler chicks and feeds which the police spouses received last year didn't create the desired impact amongst the beneficiaries because of poor coordination.
“We need to think of linking such support to the existing Savings and Credit Organisations (SACCOs) to enable the beneficiaries to develop a saving culture to sustain such support,” he noted.
He explained that some of the groups which were formed last year to access support from NAADS have since disintegrated, leaving individual farmers to struggle on their own.
“We need a holistic approach tackling issues related to addressing household incomes among the forces,” he explained.
Charlotte Komujuni is one of the renowned onion farmers in Masindi Barracks. A visit to her garden is testimony of what Komujuni stands to benefit from her onion crop.
In 2010 she planted half an acre of onions and she was blessed with a harvest of two bags. At the time she sold each kilo at sh2,500.
Komujuni speaks highly of her yield and believes that onions will help her make a big fortune. She got interested in growing onions from the onset of the NAADS programme in Masindi.
Rebecca Kusasira Mugume, a senior social development officer at Bombo Barracks explained that they need about sh6bn to fully support agricultural undertakings within the Barracks.
“We appreciate what NAADS has given us but we are still yearning for more. There are many interested groups which need such support,” she explained.
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UPDF gets sh1.5bn for agricultural production