During his tenure at the high table, he bragged that the agriculture ministry had registered a 3% growth from 0.7% in 2011.
ENTEBBE - After spending close to a lifetime on a high table, pressing buttons that directed the country’s agriculture sector, the hallmark being duration as cabinet minister for the past five years, legendary politician Tress Bucyanayandi finally hang his boots and gloves, contributing what he could.
Lucid, polite, and gentle and with a slight bend in his walk, the ex-official from Bufumbira County South in Kisoro district, handed over his charge to in-coming minister Vincent Ssempijja Bamulangaki, with some satisfaction that he ‘at least’ had contributed something to improving smallholder farmers’ welfare and alleviating the poverty problem in the country.
During his tenure at the high table, he bragged that the agriculture ministry had registered a 3% growth from 0.7% in 2011. The sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product also rose from 22% to 26% in the same period. And the export revenue (from the sector) improved from $1,224b to $1,734.
What eluded him was adopting scientific and modern practices for farmers, including the use of fertilizers and irrigation, to propel the sector to the next level, as a source of livelihood for close to 68% of Uganda’s 34 million populations.
There is also the abysmal ratio between extension workers to households, currently standing at one extension officer to approximately 5000 farmers, and the fake farm inputs and poor post-harvest handling services that farmers have cried for long about, albeit with minimal attention coming their way.
But nonetheless, the ex-minister was grateful, especially to President Yoweri Museveni, “who saw the capacity in me”, and to his “very qualified and hardworking staff” who made his stay at the ministry a worthwhile experience that lasted a lifetime.
“The potential was bigger. We could have done more (except for the challenges of not implementing the use of fertilizers on a large scale and irrigation to improve farming in the country)” the ex-minister (78-years old) said to a group of top public servants in the ministry at the head office in Entebbe.
When he was through with his remarks and had handed over his office, he sat down, arms folded between his laps.
Fellow outgoing minister, the state minister for animal industry and fisheries, Bright Rwamirama, said milk processing capacity in the country had tripled during his tenure. Uganda today had over 49 milk processing plants and was exporting dairy products to the Middle East and North Africa plus America.
He said they had completed construction of a standard abattoir — awaiting the President’s commissioning — and soon would be exporting de-boned beef.
“We eradicated rinderpest (was an infectious viral disease of cattle, and domestic buffalo, and some other species that wrought economic havoc throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe in the late 1990’s). We have tried to organize different slaughterhouses for cows and separate them from those for chicken and pigs and other animals, much as we still have a challenge of Nagana (equivalent of sleeping sickness in animals),” he said.
Incoming agriculture minister, Vincent Ssempijja Bamulangaki, pledged to uplift “income” for smallholder farmers. He said farmers will be helped to look at the “element of profitability” when planting.
He said they had a plan to improve the extension worker and farmer ratio to atleast one officer to 1800 farmers.
“Government has allocated us more money (to the agriculture sector for the 2016/20107financial year). We want to work. The issue of fake inputs? We want to deal with genuine seed manufacturers.
“We want the farmer to add value to whatever he produces so they are not cheated by middlemen. The issue of illegal fishing in our lakes? That will stop. We want to work, and to improve majority of our farmers from subsistence to commercial (farming),” he said.