Recent innuendoes by Kizza Besigye, Amama Mbabazi, et al, that the NRM has overlooked agriculture are in essence hollow rhetoric under-pinned by repugnant political expediency
By Rose Namayanja Nsereko
USING 1986 as the base year, Uganda’s initial recovery and subsequent growth is vividly demonstrable by indices from all the facets of our economy.
And, as the structure of our economy continues to evolve, other sectors like ICT, tourism, energy oil and gas are coming to the fore.
However, agriculture has been and is still integral to Uganda’s growth trajectory. The sector will always attract special attention from the NRM government since it is intimately linked to rural livelihoods, food and nutrition countrywide. Today, agriculture accounts for 25% of Uganda’s GDP and employs at least 72% of the country’s labour force directly and indirectly.
Agriculture’s significance is also derived from its valuable forward and backward linkages with other sectors of the country’s economy. The forward linkages include provision of in-puts like fruits, milk, beef, hides/skins, grains – and other in-puts to our fledgling industrial sector. Aspects of agriculture’s backward linkages include providing market for animal feeds, fertilizers, farm tools and improved seeds – among others.
Therefore, the recent innuendoes by Kizza Besigye, Amama Mbabazi, et al, that the NRM has overlooked agriculture are in essence hollow rhetoric under-pinned by repugnant political expediency. The NRM government has never wavered in its high regard and investment in agriculture over the years. For instance, in Financial Year (FY) 2014/2015 alone, sh473.7b was committed to the sector.
Enhancing crops, livestock and fisheries productivity and developing market opportunities for Ugandan farmers are among the key areas of focus. To realise these objectives, the NRM government has been investing in several structured interventions.
For instance, farmers are being supported to plant coffee, with Uganda’s export earnings from the cash crop surging to $420m in the 2014/2015 FY alone. In the same period, to add value and generate market for farmers, the NRM government also established tea factories at Kyaruhanga, Rusekere, Kabalore, Bwindi, Buhweju and Rugyeyo.
This has increased number of tea factories in Uganda to 28, which also employ our people, with those from tea-producing areas accorded priority. To directly enhance production, over 150 million tea seedlings were distributed, between 2012 and 2015.
Uganda’s sugar industry is growing phenomenally. Through large scale farms and promotion of out-grower schemes, sugarcane growing and production of sugar is on the ascendancy. With six new sugar factories established and functional, Uganda now produces sugar in quantities that meet domestic needs.
With 520,000 metric tonnes of sugar produced annually, and with annual domestic consumption of 380,000 metric tonnes, another 120,000 metric tonnes of Uganda’s sugar is being to the region and beyond.
Irregular rains and water supply has been among the constraints to consistent agricultural production in Uganda. The NRM government has responded by refurbishing the key irrigation schemes around the country, including Mubuku, Kibimba, Olweny and Doho. Several smaller irrigation demonstration facilities have also been established countrywide.
The NRM has gone on to introduce agriculture to even the historically non-farming parts of Uganda. The Karamoja sub-region which used to be known for rudimentary nomadic cattle keeping now produces quality maize, beans, cassava, potatoes and fruits.
To aid un-interrupted crop growing and animal rearing, 531 valley dams have been constructed in Karamoja, providing over 1,000,000 cubic metres of water per annum. Prior to disarmament by the NRM government, decades of vicious armed conflict, callous murders and cattle rustling had also brought agricultural engagement in parts of eastern and northern Uganda to a halt.
Following the successful disarmament, the NRM government started a re-stocking program, under-which over 500,000 heads of cattle have been provided within the Karamoja sub-region and the its neighboring districts in eastern and northern Uganda.
NRM has also taken decisive action to control animal and crop diseases as part of the interventions to guarantee quality and high agricultural yields. Some specifically targeted diseases are banana bacterial wilt, maize necrosis, coffee leaf rust, foot and mouth disease, the bovine pneumonia and African swine fever, among others.
A $15m veterinary drugs factory has been established in Lugazi, as well as a national referral laboratory in Kampala.
The NRM government also continues to provide the necessary agricultural equipment like tractors, threshers, ox-ploughs, earth movers availed to districts, commercial farmers and associations. Others are value-addition equipment, for instance, milking machines, milk coolers, maize mills, honey processors, juice extractors and coffee haulers.
Also, government through the Uganda Industrial Research Institute has put up fruit factories in Arua and Mpigi, a potato processing factory in Kabale and a peanut butter factory in Lira. The NRM liberalization policy has also attracted private actors who are adding value to fruits, milk, poultry and pork products.
Following the restructuring of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), greater focus is now on provision of farm inputs and machinery. NAADS has also been re-invigorated and incorporated into the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), an initiative by President Museveni. With participation of the tireless UPDF, households are being provided with agricultural inputs to improve production, income levels and food security.
This season alone, six million farmers have been availed with quality animals and planting materials to boost family and community production. 2.6 million heifers have been supplied to cattle farmers and one million improved mango seedlings have been supplied. Also under OWC, 70 million tea seedlings have been distributed and 1.5 million cocoa seedlings have also been availed to farmers countrywide. Four million kilograms of maize seedlings have been distributed and 1.5 million seedlings of citrus fruits have been distributed in 2015.
All these (and other interventions) have ensured that Uganda’s agricultural sector remains vibrant and competitive. Currently, the sector is posting an annual growth rate of 3% and is projected to perform better in subsequent FYs.
NRM is committed to consolidating the gains in Uganda’s agriculture sector and to further interventions that will take it a notch higher. The four-acre land model is to be fast-tracked to show demonstrate to households high production approaches, best practices in agri-business to increase earnings per household to at least sh25m per annum.
Further emphasis is to be laid on improving and expanding agricultural storage facilities and sensitizing farmers about ideal standards for Uganda’s organic agricultural products and the available markets locally, regionally and globally. Further value addition, on-farm mechanization, access to cheaper agri-business credit, quality post-harvest handling will be pursued. Regulation is to be intensified to curb undesirable acts like illegal fishing practices and protecting farmers from speculative middle men who sometimes under-pay them.
From the fore-going, it would be utterly dishonest and shameless for any politician to assert that the NRM government is not adequately attending to agriculture in Uganda. Fortunately, our farmers are a discerning lot and are alert to such cunning political maneuvers. And, as the bulk of Uganda’s electorate, they will, come February 2016, opt for NRM there-by dispatching the political ‘hyenas’ into the wilderness.
Writer is the National Treasurer of the NRM Party
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