Farming is contemporarily considered to be both an art and a science which optimally and maximally land for crop cultivation and harvesting or livestock rearing and management.
With the term ‘optimal use’, I try to mean “getting the most out of…” and ‘maximal use’, to mean “to a greater degree or most proficient or best way possible...” Appallingly farming like any other socio-economic development areas in Uganda, leaves much to be desired!
The majority of Ugandans despite their socio/economic status live miserable lives. Many of the people despondently relate together socially and business wise, consequently surviving chaotically. Wander around the country and you will get a first hand impression of the chaotic nature of issues at hand including people’s lifestyles in urban centers and the countryside. You do not even need much loitering to get abundant evidence of this. Chaos is reflected even in the people’s farming systems and practices.
Most of the farming you will see as you move along those main roads is haphazardly done and quite less captivating; the crops and livestock are highly diseased and morbid. At market level, the sale of farm produce and products is a blend of poor and good quality products outrageously including stale material. This is because the post-harvest is done in an uncongenial environment and unhealthy conditions where farm implements/ equipment, chemicals, drugs etc are increasingly fake. The catalog can actually be quite long…but why such behaviours /practices?!
This inescapable behavioral influence is everywhere right from government programs, regulatory authorities, small/large scale commercial producers, and other parties of interest to ridiculously end-point consumers of farm produce, procure services, and taxes involved in. In fact to the consumer, ‘buy all you want at own risk’ is a reality. All this wretchedness happening does not suggest that the society tolerates or condones such behavior/ practice and it also does not indicate a lack of regulation, consumer protection policies or cultural development in the country.
It is the people who are blatantly corrupted, unpatriotic and extremely selfish. However, I take this opportunity to convey my appreciation for a minority grouping with whom we share the disdain of the unpopular practices and behavior as well as a common interest for active participation in the transformation and representation of the image of our society and nation.
Since we strongly believe that farming could be the backbone of our economy, it is its optimal and maximal use that will see Uganda supersede the current situation. Therefore, in order for farming to thrive in Uganda, a couple of issues ranging from political, economic, social, cultural, technological, legal and environmental must be critically debated.
Effective strategies should be designed just as viable and sustainable resolutions are supposed to be made on multi-faceted and multilateral roundtables at all levels of society and governance to eradicate the malpractices and unhealthy behaviours. In order for the farmer to flourish and achieve projected results from their farming initiatives, they must as well be fully engaged in, devoted and adapted to a specific farming sector of their choice.
Besides, they should always endeavor to avail themselves with and or comprehend the information generated and disseminated from time to time either through specific tailor-made training programs in their field of practice or by way of research and development.
Back in our school days when we were asked about the main economic activity of Uganda, the appropriate answer then was farming. But today, one may be tempted to think and thus wrongly say that the main economic activity of Uganda is political activism! However, going by the former answer and thinking embedded, this may leave us with the following impression among others:
● That at least a significant majority of Ugandans are engaged in farming and therefore have the ability to optimally and maximally use land at their disposal for food security and or commercial purposes.
● One is able to witness farmer cooperatives organized in the least at the sub-county levels.
● That Ugandans are far removed from food shortages and starvation.
● That crop and livestock production systems and management are majorly dictated by non-traditional practices.
● That current production levels satisfy domestic markets; personal and household incomes as well as per capita consumptions are increasing and; there is an export potential to neighboring countries
● That there is heavy investments made by either the government or the private sector in development of both the livestock and crop sectors to curb the problem of especially youth unemployment.
● That land tenure laws are conducive for private investment and development.
● That there is improved nationwide research, training, and extension programmes/services that support skills-development of livestock and crop production systems to both small and large scale farmers.
● Availability of a rehabilitated and improved marketing infrastructure and; expanded sources of production credit.
● That there is strengthened research in crops and livestock breeding in order to upgrade the quantity, quality and productivity of indigenous crops and livestock breeds.
● That the country fast tracks achieving self-sufficiency in food, meat, milk, poultry and other livestock products for her people.
But to the critical mind and eye reading this, is this the reality of the nation and its people? Where is the general interest seen and share of investment made by the nation and its people? What are you told when you ask people involved in agri-business? What have practicing farmers got to say about farming today and possibly tomorrow? Back home, do our children fancy a career in agriculture or agri-business prospects?
Check the communities around National Agriculture Research facilities, do their findings or effects of these research institutions affect the farming practices of these communities? What about the scientists and researchers themselves, are they exemplary with their farming practices within and across the communities or the constituents they represent? What is it like at the Universities and other vocational institutions with regard to students offering agriculture or veterinary courses?
There are many questions that can be asked by different interest groups at all levels to satisfy the bulleted assumptions above.
As a recap of this critical thinking and group representation, none can gainsay Uganda’s good climatic conditions that favor farming all year round, and since over 90% of available land in Uganda supports both crop and livestock farming, Uganda stands in a better position to become a food basket for East and Central Africa and Africa generally; but only if,
1. There is political will to become so; as well as streamlining land tenure laws to cater for private investment and development
2. The ministry should be presided over by an agriculture professional
3. Greater government support of expanded sources of production credit; thus increased participation of citizens in various farming activities.
4. Government fast tracks livestock and crop farming for national-wide food security and as the main source of income
5. Government devises a crop and livestock marketing information system
6. Government put in place farmer training centers at the sub county levels as well as measures to ensure production systems and management are majorly dictated by non-traditional practices
7. Government strategic as well as annual budget allocations for the sector must supersede national security allocations since food itself is a weapon of mass destruction.
8. Government strengthens research to upgrade and for productivity of indigenous crops and livestock breeds.
We no longer live in a primitive society; we all know that food is also a basic human need regardless of one’s social status and vocation. Therefore, the responsibility to ensure optimal and maximal productivity of our land is in the hands of anyone who has ever seen a blackboard. Starting right from the top most executives of this country,’ down to the outback peasants all have a critical role to play.
To you especially who studied agriculture in one way or another and at any level of education, you are particularly accountable for the thriving of the sector and the farming communities around you. Do not be a theoretical farming enthusiast who flinches from the actual practice like one of my whatsapp group admins who while we were discussing issues related to farming recently had this to say, “I fear the bush and the morning dew…” perhaps jokingly representing the majority of my friends with white collar jobs.
Next time I will be tackle livestock production in Uganda with a special emphasis on poultry production as my area of specialization. People are busy joining the business every other day, but are they equipped with adequate, appropriate, relevant and timely information to underpin their investment, production and management systems, or other decisions?
Tom Bogere is poultry farmer/extension services provider