THE most recent suspension of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme makes one wonder what the motive was. Who is being affected? And what is the future of the farmer?
Recently, on a routine visit to the farmers, I asked them what they felt and thought of the NAADS suspension. It was clear that policy makers and other leaders in all categories have continued to use a top-bottom approach.
Farmers have been taken for granted yet they are the key stakeholders of the NAADS programme. The farmers are ignorant on the future of the programme and strongly voiced their dissatisfaction over the recent suspension of the programme.
In Busukuma sub-county, farmers through their chairperson Christopher Nsamba, said they were unhappy that the Government continues to disorganise the beneficiaries in the pretext of putting NAADS right.
â€œWe are tired of this continued mess, we are stakeholders, we co-fund the programme, but suspensions come without consulting us,â€ they said.
Zainab Naikubi from Kitanaba village in Jinja district, a rice farmer, says the last suspension of the programme in 2008 was a big blow to the farmers. Many were discouraged and abandoned the programme.
Naikubi believes the President acted under political pressure or misinformation. She revealed that farmers in her parish were thinking of abandoning the programme.
Christopher Kabenge, one of the six farmers selected in Wamilongo parish, Busukuma sub-county, also says the biggest problem the NAADS programme was facing is politics. â€œPolitics needs to be put away from the NAADS programme. As long as the programme is filled with political sentiments then farmers will continue to lose.â€
Farmers say the six farmers per parish issue was a political decision instituted into NAADS without consulting them. Kabenge explains that a parish has at least 100 farmers, but only six are chosen, this has led those not selected by the programme to fight the programme, calling it useless and a failure.
He argues that had farmers been consulted before deciding on the six farmers per parish, the story would have been different.
I commend the NAADS programme, because despite its challenges, the programme has fairly performed. It is only right that we look at the positive aspects of the programme so as to address the failures and improve the programme.
NAADS has suffered a number of setbacks because it is government funded.
It is only right that we rethink programmes like NAADs with the farmerâ€™s rights in mind. When running programmes, before making decisions that are unsustainable for development, the target group must be consulted.
Farmers, scientists, policy makers and donors need to â€œthink outside the boxâ€ and provide the enabling environment to propel farmer innovations.
Government, scientists and all other stakeholders need to embrace the concept that farmers can, are willing to, and will continue to experiment and innovate even after the 25 years of NAADS.
It is time we stopped looking at the NAADS cash and focus on its service delivery.
The writer is the executive director of Uganda Farmers Alliance
What farmers say about NAADSâ€™ suspension