By Solomon Kalema Musisi
The recent reports on unused agricultural funds with specific reference to Bududa District do not necessarily depict the absence of the need for agricultural funding.
The farmers have much need for financial assistance but the challenge is majorly lack of sufficient insight on how to obtain and efficiently utilise the available financial resources with the former being a result of lack of sufficient knowledge on competitive project proposal writing.
An Agricultural Education Centre would be a one stop center with agricultural documentaries, literature, reference documents and agricultural teachers where the literature and other vital information could best be delivered to the farmers in the local languages based on the location as there is already a high rate of illiteracy among rural farmers.
Through such centres in every region, the Central Government and other stakeholders in the sector would deliver information about agricultural policy and initiatives along with information from the National Agricultural Advisory Services and research findings from the National Agricultural Research Organisation.
The centres would also offer short certificate courses in agriculture to contribute to capacity building and also help disseminate crucial knowledge of the various vital aspects of agriculture to eliminate the great lack of knowledge of technicalities of financial literacy, value addition, post-harvest handling and general farm management skills.
Information technology and engineering have cultivated aspects of e-agriculture and mechanisation respectively in the agricultural sector which require much more education that can be accessed more easily at the institutions of higher learning such as universities, making it a huge challenge for rural farmers to acquire such knowledge, the lack of which deprives them of the ability to produce agricultural output that can compete favourably on the international market that involves countries with higher literacy rate and level of technological development.
Access to education on agribusiness is also costly for rural farmers who have potentially profitable large scale of land and more accessible by other citizens in Institutions of higher learning who may not have as much land and capital, but can meet the tuition fee payments.
In addition, AEC’s would serve as centres for reinstating the farmers certification as an awarding system for outstanding farmers who adhere to national agricultural policy as a means of encouraging them and boosting competitive investment environment and the benefits thereof in the agricultural sector.
Appeals such as the one made by the Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Bright Rwamirama, at the workshop on agricultural risk management at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala in May last year calling for more investors to focus on agriculture would be much more rewarding, if the potential beneficiaries fully comprehend how to gain from the value chain provisions that arise from such investment.
The expansion of banks and other financial institutions further out to rural areas, which many stakeholders in the national economy continue to demand for, is also in itself a major risk arising from the farmers’ general lack of knowledge of financial services of such institutions.
The effectiveness of funds such as the World Bank’s financing of over $400m towards agricultural education and training in developing countries would best be evaluated at AEC’s from which farmers’ feedback on the same can be obtained.
The Special Economic Zone commissioned in Nakaseke district by President Museveni, among other governmental and non-governmental initiatives, presents a variety of opportunities at all parts of the value chain from which Ugandans can earn yet the knowledge of the parts of the value chain are unknown to many hence the need for Agricultural Education Centres.
The writer is the president of the Makerere University’s School of Agricultural Sciences Students Council