By Joel Ogwang
The Uganda Peoples Defence Force’s (UPDF) intervention in Uganda’s socio-economic transformation will not be limited to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) program, Col. Felix Kulayigye, the National Political Commissar (NPC), has revealed.
Citing the Egyptian army that, he claimed, contributes 65% to the country’s GDP through active involvement in agriculture, international trade and shipping lines, he noted that army involvement in Uganda’s socio-economical development was constitutional.
“During the political crisis (following a popular revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak), the economy was sustained by the army,” Kulayigye told The New Vision on the side-lines of the national agricultural inputs stakeholders’ dialogue at Colline hotel, Mukono, on Tuesday.
Col. Felix Kulayigye, the National Political Commissar (NPC) speaks to participants during break time at the national agricultural inputs stakeholders’ dialogue at Colline hotel, Mukono. PHOTO/Joel Ogwang
“When I talk of army involvement in agriculture, I don’t have only NAADS in hind-sight. A modern army must be productive, which is also a constitutional requirement. Food security contributes greatly to national security since a well-fed population is easy to lead, so the nation will be stable. A hungry nation is also vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation by the rich nations.”
Following mismanagement that rendered NAADS ineffective despite huge resource investment for close to two decades, President Museveni laid off civilians formerly manning the scheme, with soldiers, on the back of their effective intervention in Luwero, Bugisu and Acholi, taking over.
“With NAADS, we are moving into constituency level to ensure that every farmer receives seedlings and then we shall monitor advisory services,” said the former UPDF/ army publicist.
“The UPDF has prepared itself for operations other than war, but also civil-military activities that touch people’s lives. To intervene ably, we need a master plan which we are in the process of developing one because we are new in the field,” he said.
During the conference, participants decried counterfeiting of agro-inputs and the low budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector, arguing that this was contributing to Uganda’s dwindling productivity.
Joshua Kato, the editor of Harvest Money, a New Vision weekly agri-business publication, noted that most, if not, all farmers in Uganda have used fake inputs.
“I know of a woman who had 500 birds, but when she used fake drugs, they died one by one. She has never gone back to poultry. In the course of running farming stories for so long,” he said.
“I have discovered that we have laws, but are very weak. They need to be amended to make them punitive and deterrent for counterfeiters.”
With formal sector contributing only 20% of the seeds produced in Uganda, former agriculture minister, Victoria Sekitoleko urged the government to promote informal seed systems.
“We also need young blood to spearhead agriculture revival. Why should we have the minister who is 80-years, deputised by a 70-year-old? If I am not yet 70-years-old, but I already feel tired, the reason I am not employed; how can we move agriculture forward with tired people?” she asked.
Alhaji M. Jallow, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Uganda representative called for trainings of farmers to empower them with knowledge to fight fake inputs.
“Farmers know the kind of inputs they want. All they need is more information flow by organising and training them to deal with fakes,” he said.
“We need to create a voice for farmers like boda bodas (hire motor cyclists) have done. I have seen policemen flee from scenes when there is a problem involving boda bodas because they have solidarity. Farmers can operate like them as well.”
Uganda should also certify seed c ompanies and extension workers to kick-out counterfeiters, said Ande Okiror Ongura, the Sasakawa Global 2000 coordinator in charge of public-private partnerships and market access.
“We should also have a chain of command in agriculture and not unilaterally scatter it I all government departments and ministries.”
Marianne Namanye Nkore, the Balton (U) publicist and business development manager called for a concerted effort to wipe out counterfeiting of agro-inputs.
“Counterfeits are real. All market players in agriculture business will have to come together to help fight it. Fake inputs are sold cheaply. If farmers are not disciplined to avoid them, they will continue working hard, but earning poorly by cheating themselves,” she said.
Presidential aide on political affairs, Moses Byaruhanga said a proposal is being developed that will ensure government produces seeds.
“The army and prisons will use their land as seed production centers. We also need the National Drug Authority (NDA) to do their work in fighting counterfeits.”