THE opposition has presented an alternate budget, criticising the Government over what they termed wasteful expenditure. They made wide-ranging recommendations including the scrapping of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), describing it as a â€˜workshop programmeâ€™ designed to siphon off money through allowances.
While the opposition should be commended for pointing out shortcomings in the 2009/2010 budget and their proposals should not be swept under the carpet, they got it wrong on NAADS. As the name suggests, NAADSâ€™ mandate is to give advice on better farming techniques and one of the tools used is workshops.
It should be known that NAADS is just one of the seven pillars of the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA). Its mandate should not be confused with that of the other six pillars; micro-finance, marketing and agro-processing, research, infrastructure development, agricultural education and natural resource management.
Despite some shortfalls, NAADS has organised farmers into some 50,000 groups. The programme has also rolled out from just 15 districts to the whole country, reaching out to at least a million of the four million households in Uganda.
Where the programme has failed, it is the local leaders, including Members of Parliament, to blame since it is a decentralised activity. It is the chief administrative officers and sub-county chiefs who are the accounting officers for the sh90b allocated for the programme and not the NAADS executive director.
NAADS money comes directly from the treasury to the sub-counties and 60% is supposed to be spent on technologies (seeds, fertilisers, etc) and 19% on advisory services. Only a fraction is for facilitation. It is, therefore, wrong to say the programme is all about workshops.
Right now, NAADS is being redesigned and those with any ideas should make an input rather than merely criticise. The key issue should be a shift in focus to ensure that the other PMA pillars, particularly micro-finance, marketing and agro-processing, deliver on their mandate. Scrapping NAADS would be like throwing away the baby together with the bath water.