Cocoa will boost household income, increase our export earnings, at the same time, we set up cottage cocoa industries to address the unemployment in the country.
By Nandala Mukoota J.G
I would like to bring to the attention of President Yoweri Museveni and all Ugandans at large, that as the country we can do better, if we concentrate on five products for the moment, which have a big market. These are Cocoa, Coffee, Fish, Sesame and Soybeans.
Let me thank the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) officers for doing a commendable job by distributing seeds and seedlings to our farmers. How we wish, this exercise of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) had started 10 years ago and Parliament increased agriculture budget from the current 4% to 15%.
We would be competing with Ivory Coast in producing Cocoa beans for export, competing with Vietnam in Coffee and Fish production, and we would compete with Ethiopia in the output of sesame (simsim) and soybeans production for export to world market.
When we over spread the limited resource envelope on all agriculture products, we might be “merchants of all trade but masters of none”. To realize the much needed output for our exports, we need to put more attention on the five to give us a niche on international markets.
With over 40 million acres of arable land, I suggest that we portion 10 million acres of land, and put it under perennial crops of Cocoa and Coffee. Besides being cash crops the two can cater for the environment by creating a permanent forest in these Cocoa and Coffee plantations, since both are shade crops which need tree cover, and the growers will be hesitant to destroy the trees which protect their high value crops.
I have been at the forefront of promoting Cocoa crop in Eastern Uganda, but I have been frustrated by the agriculture ministry officials for being slow to implement even simple concepts. They don't know that planting more Cocoa in the country increases forestation, precipitation, more regulatory rainfall and acting as a sponge to flash floods and controlled soil erosion.
Supposing, out of 40 million acres, five million acres are targeted for distribution to one million households under cocoa crop alone, it will translate into 2.5 billion trees excluding the shade tree covers, and the same will apply to coffee shrub trees in the same measure.
The demand for Uganda Cocoa on the world market is huge given its best flavour. Ivory Coast has been running a surplus budget for three consecutive years, mainly because of Cocoa, Coffee, Palm oil and Coconut exports.
Cocoa will boost household income, increase our export earnings, at the same time, we set up cottage cocoa industries to address the unemployment in the country. The good thing with cocoa and coffee, they can be intercropped with other plants, like bananas and jackfruit trees to give farmers maximum benefits.
The remaining 30 million acres of arable land, they should be used for food crop production, and more attention paid to the changing eating habits of our population especially the youth, who prefer wheat and rice.
Wheat imports accounts for the third biggest bill import. How can we reduce on the importation of wheat and rice, since the young generation like these two items so much, yet they are taking a lot of foreign exchange from the country? The areas of Elgon zone, Kigezi region, Buhweju and Zombo can all produce for us wheat and we cut down on importation.
Soybeans and sesame (simsim) should be cultivated on large scale, because these crops do well in the entire savannah areas of the country and can boost local food industries for humans and the byproducts turned into animal feeds. The storage facilities must be installed to handle post-harvest, while looking for market in China and other countries. Ethiopia is now the leading producer of sesame on the continent and exports to China and India.
I would equally, salute the army for the efforts in regulating fishing activities on our water bodies, for us to scale up fish output, strictly standard nets must be used, ponds and cage fish farming be encouraged and fish restocking in all our water bodies including rivers and streams.
Government must ensure that idle land in the countryside is properly utilised through sub-county and parish chiefs giving annually reports concerning the utilization of land in order to benefit all citizen, if it’s not under crop and animal production, then viable tree planting must take place to enhance the environment and provided needed timber.
There is a lot of hope especially with the massive infrastructure investments like oil pipeline and refinery constructions, these projects will created jobs for Ugandans during and after completion. The hydro dams are going to provide power to our industries and light our homes through rural electrification program and the remaining will be evacuated to the neighboring countries, thanks to the Japanese loan which is going undertake this exercise.
The opening up of many paved roads in the country has unlocked many opportunities in both agri-commerce and tourism, and this can translate into improved welfare of the Nationals.
The onus is on us to utilise the prevailing peace and stability of the country to engage into productive sectors like promoting agriculture and secure machinery for value addition to boost exports and increase the quality of lives of our people.
To reach the Promised Land, we shall need some sacrifices and put in spirited patriotism. As the President has said promoting consumerism at the expense of investing in productive sectors will not generate the desired revenue to meet wages and salaries of our public servants.
The writer is a social development advocate and cocoa promoter