By Gideon Shambire
The Agency for Transformation (AfT) with support from USAID’s Governance, Accountability, Participation and Performance (GAPP) Programme is carrying out activities aimed at strengthening oversight role of farmers and private sector to improve budget integrity and reduce cost of doing business in Mityana and Mubende Districts.
As a young associate at AfT, I came face to face with what is on the ground and what the farmers say as far as agriculture is concerned. For the first time and away from the negative commentary, I often read in the press, most farmers in Mityana and Mubende seem to be liking some government programmes. Unlike in many parts of the country where farmers complain about the poor trunk and community access roads, in Mityana and Mubende farmers were extremely thrilled with what the Government has done as far as the road network in the region is concerned.
Farmers asserted that with improvement of the road network in the area, the agricultural prices of their produce have more than doubled. But there was bad news too- farmers vehemently said the Government has done little on rural electrification. The farmers are aware that with no electricity in most parts of the area, value addition from their produce will be hard to overcome. They need electricity to set up factories that can help to grind their maize grains to be able to sell at an improved fee.
One farmer argued that it is heinous that due to intermittent electricity, farmers with chicken enterprise can’t make their own feeds and resort to expensive feeds from Kenya. The Rural Electrification Agency should look at this closely.
Farmers made an alarm over the continued flow of counterfeit inputs on market. Farmers say that there are a lot of phony products on the market ranging from seeds to the drugs. More so the law that would help to combat the counterfeit is very weak and this has left farmers in dilemma with no one to turn too. Farmers are confident that if the Government can point out genuine traders who deal in quality and proven products, it would be a step towards agricultural transformation. Farmers compelled their umbrella organisation, The Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) to provide them a list of genuine input dealers. It is urgent that UNFFE delivers on it.
National Agriculture Advisory services (NAADS) which receives public funds on farmers’ behalf remains a big uphill elephant that farmers know about and like, but have limited knowledge of its detailed operations. For example, farmers do not know how much money is allocated to NAADs, when that money is released and what specifically that money is meant for. For example, the Auditor General’s report of 2008 reveals that only 37.1% of the total money spent on NAADS may be considered as useful expenditure. And yet, since the inception of the programme in June 2006, it is estimated that over $107m had been spent on NAADS activities (Auditor General 2008). Issues of corruption and other financial irregularities in the implementation of NAADS programme are commonplace in the media.
As such, some studies following quantitative approaches such as Benin et al. (2007), and qualitative approaches such as OPM (2005) and Scanagri (2005) provide insights into the glaring fault lines of the NAADS programme. In particular, Benin et al. (2007) observed that though there is some positive effect of NAADS on adoption, no significant differences in yields were found between NAADS and non -NAADS farmers.
Spending without results is a loss for farmers and Ugandan tax payers in general. But with the AfT/USAID GAPP intervention, farmers are now learning the skills and techniques of how to follow their money from Kampala, to Mityana and Mubende district local governments, up to the farm. With knowledge on budgeting and execution processes of NAADS programme, farmers and their organisations will hold corrupt officials to account.
Morrison Rwakakamba, Chief Executive Officer Agency for Transformation (AFT), argued that there is urgent need to build capability of farmers to track NAADS funds and ensure that money reaches intended beneficiaries. NAADS must incorporate the governance, participation and performance principles which the GAPP project also seeks to promote. Critical to this endeavour is improving the agency of farmers as key actors in the implementation of this major government programme.
Rwakakamba also said that Uganda, which stands on 236,040sqmiles with a population of about 37 million people with growth rate of 3.2% and about seven million households, will likely face a deepening land crisis, if efficiency and appropriate technologies are not deployed on farms. Sunday Emmanuel Bushema, the Board Member of NAADS and UNFFE respectively argued that there is need to transcend the horizon, mechanise agriculture and carry out more research on the soils so that scientific methods of farming can be extensively used in order to cab the ever increasing food demands in the country. He also argued case for regional farm schools and young farmers’ parks. This is a conversation that leaders at all levels in Uganda should take seriously.
The writer is a research associate with Agency for Transformation