By Matilda Nakawungu
Agriculture has been and remains central to Uganda’s economic growth and poverty reduction. One cannot overemphasize the importance of the agricultural sector to the national economy, rural livelihoods, and the food security of Ugandans. Although the country is gifted with fertile soil and good climatic conditions, agricultural production and productivity has been declining.This has been a result of the inability of farmers to improve production and productivity without the guidance and support of the state.
On October 29th, farmers together with Civil Society Organizations launched the Uganda National Farmers’ Manifesto. This was a call to action directed at the Government of Uganda, political parties, development partners and non-state actors asking them to prioritize the needs of the agriculture sector.
The Farmers’ Manifesto is a collection of farmers’ views from village level in over 80 districts in Uganda mobilized under the auspices of Uganda National Coalition on Agriculture Governance. Farmers prioritized five constraining factors as the key national issues. These were: inadequate access to agricultural extension services and research, over reliance on rain-fed agriculture, inadequate and non-inclusive agricultural financing, limited access to market, and limited access to quality and quantity Agro-inputs.
Government and other stakeholders were asked to invest in and promote irrigation as an alternative source of water for agricultural production irrigation; implement an adequate and well-facilitated extension service delivery system and research; improve market access as well as revive cooperatives; strengthen the regulation of Agro-inputs to ensure quality; and increase national budget to the agriculture sector up to 10%.
“They have committed to 10 percent national budgetary allocations to agriculture, but they only use a fraction of that.” Ms. Irene Cheptoyeka farmer from Kapchorwa said while presenting the demands of the farmers.
Launching the Manifesto, the state minister for agriculture Hon. Bright Rwamirama agreed with the farmers that budgetary allocations to the agricultural sector have been relatively small.
“Our Government has ensured that we have the best research in the East African region. The problem is implementation,” he added on the issue of research.