By Augustine Otuko, youth leader
Historically, the Iteso are widely known as cattlekeepers. However, in the 1920s, colonial officials introduced cassava as a supplement to millet and sorghum as famine-relief food.
Around about the same time, potatoes and groundnuts, locally known as erudu, were introduced.
Women grew vegetables in gardens next to their homes and gathered various wild foods, especially mushrooms and flying ants. From around 1948, the primary cash crop in Teso region was cotton and, later, tobacco.
In the last 15 years, the Government, through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADs) and or Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), have been advocating a shift in the nature of commercial crops produced in Teso to fruit farming Scientific studies carefully carried out indicate that
Teso land and soils are suitable for credible fruit growing. This informed the decision by the Government to establish a fruit factory in Soroti as an absorption mechanism for the fruits produced.
However, to date, the factory has not consumed any harvest as the engines await to be switched on.
The second challenge is the increasingly reducing land space in the region due to population explosion.
This could explain why beneficiaries of OWC prefer taking less seedlings while leaving other supplies to dry.
Most successful fruit farms in Teso are majorly private initiatives, with less OWC support.
The Government should, therefore, avoid a blanket campaign on fruit growing due to the prevailing land fragmentation conditions.
For farmers who are already engaged in fruit farming and are having their harvests rotting due to the silent engines of the fruit factory, the Government should create market linkages to avoid future losses for farmers.
On the other hand, if the supply is inadequate, like I would love to predict, the backup supply plan must be activated.
Considering a shift in the land space, Teso requires a multidimensional approach that is not pegged on fruits to transformation.
Fruits can just be one of the elements. No one should also discount cattle (most especially zebus) and cassava growing as vehicles for household income.
The writer is the National Resistance Movement youth chairman of Katakwi district