THE survey shows that 58% of the estimated total number of farming households have one hectare, 38% have one to five hectares and only 4% have five hectares or more
By Samuel Sanya
IN Katibu Odeke’s large family, meat is a luxury. For his family of four wives and 31 children, the peasant farmer needs 20kg of maize flour and two kilogrammes of beans for a single meal.
“Life is hard. My family hardly affords two meals a day,” Odeke says. “I spend at least sh20,000 per day to feed the children. I am even forced, against my wish, to sell cows, goats and sheep to sustain my big family,” he adds in a report.
“My wives prepare the land, but the rains delay to come, fall too much or fall in small proportions. I no longer go by the popular belief that every child is a lucky one,” he says.
Like many of Uganda’s estimated 3.9 million farming households, Odeke has never been visited by an extension worker.
While he earns about sh200,000 a year, this is lower than the national average of between sh350,000 to sh500,000 annually, according to an ActionAid survey.
The survey shows that 58% of the estimated total number of farming households have one hectare, 38% have one to five hectares and only 4% have five hectares or more.
Furthermore, 90% of all households use hand-held tools during production and post-harvest handling, 2% use tractors and the rest use animal power. Only 680,000 homes have ever been visited by extension workers.
However, Tom Kakuba, the desk officer for the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) at the agriculture ministry, says new plans aim to correct the ills in the sector and push exports to $4b (about sh11.3 trillion) in the next five years.
Agriculture currently contributes about $4.2b of Uganda’s GDP (which is 20% of the country’s total GDP).
Kakuba explained that a new development strategy and investment plan (DSIP) for the agricultural sector intends to pursue targets in the Maputo Declaration by strengthening institutions, markets and production efficiency.
This, in turn, will increase rural incomes where the bulk of the poor reside. The plan will boost household nutrition and ensure national food security in line with Vision 2040.
“By June this year, the process should be complete (the new plan). We intend to increase productivity by at least 50%. We are producing far less per hectare than the optimum level,” he said.
“If we are to export, we must ensure that we can compete. If we have the required manpower, land, resources and political will, all factors held constant, we shall reach $4b in exports in the medium term (five years).”
Kakuba made the comments at the National Conference on Africa Union’s Malabo Declaration and CAADP at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
The conference was organized by the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) and Trust Africa.
He noted that the major thrust of the plan is to encourage farmers to move into enterprise agriculture. In 2011, Uganda exported $638.08m (about sh1.8 trillion) worth of coffee, tea, fish and tobacco, according to the Uganda Export Promotions Board data.
The main destination of Uganda’s exports is the EU, which, accounts for over 50% of the fish exports consumption, COMESA, the Middle East, East Asia and the East African Community countries.
Other cash crops that have performed well over the years are cotton, flowers, vanilla, maize and fresh fruits.
While the plans attracted cheers from the half-day conference, skeptics have poured ice on the new plan, saying there is insufficient political will to transform agriculture. ActionAid’s Frederick Kawooya noted that the agriculture specific funding is still well below the 10% requirement. He added that only 47% of the approved 683 positions in the agriculture ministry have been filled due lack of political will.
A survey of the finance ministry documents shows that off the total donor aid receipts, agriculture continually lags behind health, energy, accountability, public sector management and the water and transport sector.
A survey of Kumi district shows that out of a budget allocation of sh1.4b for agriculture, each of the estimated 40,000 farming households is entitled to just sh30,000 per year, with the rest going to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programmes and wages.
“The budget is not sufficient to transform people into commercial farmers,” a civil servant in Kumi says in an ActionAid report.
Documents further reveal that the previous DSIP (2010/11–2014/15) only allocated sh21.3b to climate change planning objectives.
Kawooya says this shows lack of political will to finance a sector that accounts for 24% of the economy.
The Gulu Woman MP, Betty Ocan, noted that computations of budget allocation to agriculture should exclude general expenditure such as roads, which affect other sectors like trade, health and education.
In response to questions on political will, Harriet Ntabazi, the Bundibugyo Woman MP, noted that technocrats in the finance and agriculture ministries should take the blame for low agriculture funding, since they are responsible for the policy statements.
John Okot, the Agago County MP, said there is insufficient capacity at district level to train farmers.
He said more needs to be done to reinforce links between the agriculture ministry and farmers at district level to improve productivity.
Agriculture earnings to hit sh11 trillion in five years