MPs Decry Declining Agriculture Sector Performance

Members of Parliament have expressed concern over the declining performance of agriculture and national food and nutrition in the country.

Under the Parliamentary Forum on food security, population and development, Suleiman Balyejjusa, the Budiope West MP notes that agricultural sector performance has been steadily declining from 7.9 percent in 2000 to 3.1 percent in 2011.

This decline, the MP notes, is manifested in all the three subsectors and is well below the population growth rate of 3.4 percent, one of the highest in the world.

These concerns follow a fact finding mission in Teso sub region this month.

The mission noted that the National Agricultural Advisory Services—NAADS program, which would have had a direct impact on improving food security and prosperity for all, is suffering from inconsistency in guidelines, policy and political direction.

They found out that 80 percent of the NAADS funds are spent on administrative costs leaving only 20 percent for farmers and the impact in the community is not visible.

Bunyole West MP Jacob Wangolo says it’s time for government to help farmers and finance the sector through seed banks, something government is not in a hurry to implement.  He cites Butaleja district where 80 million given to the agricultural departments is mainly spent on fuel. He adds that for the last two years the NRM caucus has been talking about agricultural zoning but there is nothing on the ground.

It was noted that most farmers do not have access to knowledge on good agronomical practices and yet the traditional agricultural extension system has been rendered non-functional. There is also fear among farmers due to information that NAADS program may be replaced with SACCOs casting doubt on its sustainability as a vehicle of national development.

The mission also found that inputs and support for promoting agricultural mechanization are too expensive for the small scale farmers. For example in the whole of Katakwi district, there is only one public tractor and communities cannot afford the 160,000 shillings charged to open up an acre of land.

The MPs on the agricultural Forum are now calling on government to revise the agricultural credit facility with the immediate objective of targeting the small scale farmers especially women and rural youth. They call on government to set up an Agricultural Credit Bank as a long term strategy and to design a sustainable seed policy to support small holder farmers and re-establish cooperatives through SACCO information to handle credit provision.

Above all they recommend that the agriculture budget should be increased to at least six percent in the financial year 2013/2014.

Julius Mukunda, Coordinator Civil society Advocacy Group, laments that the agricultural inputs are of poor quality and inadequate while most of the farmers do not get enough training. Mukunda asks MPs to throw out the agricultural budget after the 15th of June and demand that the Ministries of Agriculture and finance go back and make new priorities for the sector.

Agriculture contributes up to 22 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and accounts for 48 percent of Uganda’s exports. It also provides a large proportion of the raw materials for the industrial sector.

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