Cocoa farmers in Hoima say they are struggling on their own without any help from the district agriculture department. They fault the district agriculture department and National Agricultural Advisory Services-NAADS for denying them extension services, which they believe would help them improve. The Cocoa farmers also claim that they lack knowledge on marketing their harvest, and controlling pests and diseases. Edward Billy Kyamulesere is a resident of Butwamba village in Kiziranfumbi sub-county in Hoima.
Kyamulesere says he has managed to plant over 10 acres of cocoa without any help from the district agricultural office. According to Kyamulesere he has been battling pests and diseases for the last 15 years he has been involved in planting cocoa without any help from the district, which has affected his productivity. He says to date he doesn’t understand the pests that attack his crop despite applying several pesticides to control them in vain. He doesn’t recall a day when extension workers from the district mobilized farmers to sensitize them about cocoa growing.
Kyamulesere says several farmers have abandoned cocoa growing because of lack of knowledge yet he believes it would boost their incomes in the war against poverty. Mary Bwaligonza is a cocoa farmer from Buhimba west village in Buhimba sub-county. Bwaligonza says cocoa is still her best crop because it needs cheap labor. She however, says they lack information on how to market it, proper harvesting methods, best planting methods among others. Bwaligonza who owns two acres of cocoa says she earns over 500,000 shillings each season despite the fact that diseases affect her production.
According to Bwaligonza, she abandoned cocoa farming in early 1990s due to price fluctuations but decided to revisit the plantations in late 2000’s when the prices stabilized. A kilogram of cocoa now costs 45,000 shillings according to ESCO, a private firm involved in buying the crop. Bwaligonza says they are not certain about the market for the produce should ESCO decided to withdraw from the business. She wants the district agriculture office to consider extending extension services to cocoa farmers and also include it under the NAADS program to enable them benefit from the free farm inputs provided by government.
Joseph Kyaligonza, a cocoa farmer from Kichompyo village in Munteme parish Kiziranfumbi sub-county says one of his biggest challenges is lack of storage facilities and knowledge of handling the crop after harvest. Kyaligonza says his harvest attracts low prices because he is told it is of low quality. He says the agriculture department is to blame for the losses incurred by farmers resulting from poor storage because they have never received any training. Dr Charles Kajura, the Hoima district production officer confesses that they have not been giving cocoa any attention because of the limited numbers of farmers involved.
Catherine Kaija, the Hoima district agricultural officer says there is a limited number of extension workers who can’t disseminate information to all farmers in the district adding that they would emphasize the issue in a planning and stakeholders meetings. George Bagonza Tinkamanyire, Hoima LC V Chairperson says there is need to support perennial crops farming like cocoa, coffee and tea among others. He says once grown at a commercial level the crops would reduce poverty levels.