ACCESS to information on new practices and technologies that improve farmer'' yields is important if farmers are to improve on agriculture production and productivity
By John Odyek
ACCESS to information on new practices and technologies that improve farmer' yields is important if farmers are to improve on agriculture production and productivity.
Ugandan farmers are still using rudimentary methods of production such as the use of the hand hoe and very few if any apply fertilizers or use improved seeds (most farmers are using recycled seed). As a result production has remained subsistent with many farmers becoming net food buyers once the glut period is over.
Research Analyst, Economic Policy Research Center said to realize the Uganda's vision of transforming into a middle income country (Vision 2014), there is need to put in place a functioning and competent extension system that immediately handles the changing needs of farmers.
The growth in India's food production for example has majorly been attributed to its extension support and research.
The country has had several reforms in extension provision ranging from the use of government extension workers at district levels in a supply driven approach to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) program in which farmers were supposed to be empowered to demand for extension services.
In June 2014, NAADS activities as an advisory service provider were replaced with a new extension system that has been dubbed the "single spine extension system". NAADS continues to distribute inputs through Operation Wealth creation.
Adong said one of the key tenets of the single spine system is to mainstream NAADS program into local government structures and eliminate the existing parallel extension systems that existed in the NAADS framework.
"This harmonized extension system is probably the much needed reform for Uganda at the time when NAADS has been blamed for failing to deliver on its mandate (provision of advisory services and not distribution of seeds) and the existence of parallel uncoordinated extension delivery system," Adong said.
“As of now, the single spine extension system seems not to have a clear framework for implementation and reading through the Ministry of Agriculture documents, one can easily see that we are returning to the previous supply driven approach that existed before NAADS".
"This system was criticized for not being able to meet the changing needs of farmers because of its supply driven nature. India's extension system probably provides the best implementation framework that the single spine system could borrow from. Similar in concept, that is decentralized and publicly funded, India's extension provides for clear communication channels between research and farmer extension needs allowing for bilateral flow of information from farmers to research and vice versus".
She said there is a state model cell that acts as a linkage between research institutes and state farmer's advisory committee- an equivalent of the zonal research institutes in Uganda.
"Work plans are developed at grassroots levels using block level technology teams and farmer advisory committees, farmer groups and self-help groups and approved at the district level".
"This arrangement is not so different from the NAADS structure beyond the district level. NAADS had a strong component of farmer group institutional development allowing for composition of village farmer forum that were tasked with identifying farmer advisory needs. Enhancing the role of zonal research institutes and District Agriculture Research Support Teams to link research to extension and making village farmer forums fully functional will be crucial if the single spine extension system is to boost agriculture production".
What the Single Spine Extension System can borrow from NAADS