Embracing information communication technology (ICT) in agriculture is the only way through which youth can take the trade to new heights.
This observation was made by Dr. Dick Nuwamanya Kamunganga, the president of the Uganda National Farmers’ Federation (UNFFE).
While closing the 10-day national agricultural fair in Jinja earlier this week, Dr. Nuwamanya encouraged youth to engage in smart Agriculture as a means of hauling themselves out of poverty.
Dr. Nuwamanya’s counsel came on the heels of a debate in which Gayaza High School and Namilyango College students explored the potential agribusiness has in creating mass employment for today’s educated youth.
The debate that was won by Gayaza high school focused on the motion dubbed “Can Agribusiness be the major enhancement and employment for the youth?” Prior to the debate which was part of a students’ symposium at the agricultural show, Minister of Agriculture Vincent Ssempijja Bamulangaki, had rallied farmers to ready themselves for the grand shift from subsistence to commercial agriculture.
Ssempijja emphasized that the Ministry was in full support of the farmers and the main agenda is to get the ‘subsistence’ farmers to do commercial farming.
As such, he recommended the adoption of new innovations; new seed variety and new technologies in water for irrigation so as to resist weather dynamics.
The Minister noted that Ugandans have got a lot of idle land which they do not put to good use but rather, use it as collateral to get loans or keep it as security for old age.
He encouraged farmers to utilize their land profitably. He further called upon businessmen to invest in agriculture for example through agro-processing.
Last Thursday the Vice President, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi on behalf of his boss President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, officially visited the show grounds and toured the exhibitors’ stalls. Ssekandi appreciated the new extensions and techniques in the agriculture sector.
He then launched UNFFE’s strategic plan for the next 5 years. Ssekandi boasted of an increase in export revenue in the recent years which now stands at USD 3.9bn. this revenue has resulted from a rise in export volume of coffee, peas, maize and beans which is attributed to the continued investment in agriculture and intensified government efforts in the provision of planting and stocking material especially through the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) programme.
Ssekandi assured farmers that government’s commitment is to enable all households especially rural small holder farmers to earn at least shillings 20bn per year from a combination of agricultural and other economical enterprises so as to eliminate hunger and poverty and improve food security. Agriculture led growth plays a pivotal role in economic development of our country with over 4.2 million small holder farmers deriving their livelihood directly from agriculture. It contributes 25.2% of Uganda’s GDP and employs over 80% of population and 53% of Uganda’s export revenue are derived from agriculture production. Ssekandi therefore assured farmers that government will remain steadfast in pursuing policies and integrations that promote value addition in order to improve foreign exchange base and reduce import base
Through NAADS/OWC, government has achieved increased coffee production; over 5 million bags of which over 4 million bags are exported to generate USD 544M. Government’s target is to produce 20 million bags by 2020 with projected revenue of USD 2.4bn. This will be made possible by distribution of 100m coffee seedlings, expanding area under coffee production by 5% in traditional area and 25% in new areas, increased fertilizer use and water for irrigation.
The tea industry has also registered massive growth in the last 10 years to generate USD 84.7 million. The target is to produce over 130,000mg by 2020 valued at USD 190M. Government in partnership with the private sector will build tea factories in Kisoro, Kabale, Zombo and Kanungu, with capacity to produce 800M per annum.
More revenue will be realized through the Vegetable oil industry;over 10,000 hectares of palm trees have been established in Kalangala and Buvuma district, parts in Eastern and Northern Uganda. Ssekandi said that government will persistently invest in Irrigation infrastructure and domesticating simple water harvesting technology.
He noted that Doho and Mobuku irrigation schemes have been rehabilitated and 687 valley tanks of capacity of 5000-1500 litres were constructed in Western Uganda and Karamoja. He promised that more irrigation schemes will be constructed with support of partners like the Africa Development Bank (ADB). Among the schemes to be constructed include; Doho phase 2, Mobuku phase 2, Ngege, Kibimba, Kabuyanda, Bulambuli and dams in Kanungu and Tororo.
Ssekandi further assured that revenue from the livestock sector will be boosted by increasing milk production from 2bnlitres annually to 3.35bn litres by 2020 through boosting the processing capacity. Beef revenue will be USD 1.6bn by 2020.
Government has waived taxes from agriculture inputs to assist farmers gain access to inputs at fair prices, restructured NAADS to improve its efficiency and effectiveness in providing agriculture related services and now vows to increase production by providing extension services, improving seed and planting materials, inputs, control plant and animal diseases, continue to invest in research, roads, energy, communication and infrastructure to enable food transportation across the country and the region.
A banana winemaker, Rutaremwa Bruce, is grateful to the National Agricultural show in which he has been exhibitor for the last 6 years. The show has helped him get access to market he would not meet especially from foreign countries. He also managed to meet the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) at this event which has since standardized his product. Rutaremwa is a farmer under the umbrella of Isingiro Farmers’ Association which looks to build a permanent exhibition stall at the show grounds.
BY JOSHUA BESIGYE