25 February 2016, Kampala – FRA in collaboration with PELUM Uganda and the NSA Working Group on Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services (AEAS) reforms on Thursday successfully held the 1st National colloquium on the AEAS reforms.
The colloquium that attracted over 90 participants was a continuation of a multi stakeholder engagement process. This process aims at generating practical strategies for an effective and inclusive implementation of extension service reforms aimed at realizing a vibrant agricultural sector. This high level event focused on the financing of agricultural extension particularly on addressing the existing gaps and challenges, and tapping into the opportunities.
The meeting provided a dialogue forum for sharing experiences, research results and recommendations on how to develop a practical and implementable policy and strategy. Preliminary findings from an analytical desk review of extension policy and budget allocation on the current Agricultural Extension reforms were also presented at the event.
Key issues addressed during the meeting, which will form the basis for refining the policy and the strategy included farmer co-financing of extension services; youth engagement in agriculture particularly in developing innovations to ease access to agricultural extension; funding and replicating research to bridge the gap between research and extension; and the need for government subsidization on agro-inputs.
In her opening remarks, the FRA Executive Director, Ms. Agnes Kirabo, noted that majority of policies developed in Uganda fail at implementation as one crucial aspect of their development – financing- is often left out from the start. She emphasized the importance of covering all the financing aspects of the extension system in the current reforms. Although farmer co-financing was noted to be a complex approach, participants agreed that farmers would likely be willing to pay for the extension services if they are of a satisfactory quality.
Addressing the meeting, Ms. Byarugaba Beatrice the Director of Agricultural Extension mentioned that the Ministry of Agriculture is taking a number of steps to improve the sector right from the grassroots.
“MAAIF is currently developing a strategy for engaging youth in agriculture; an extension strategy; and a communications strategy to foster development of the sector” She said.
Inadequate funding of agriculture has been a persistent challenge in Uganda – with only 3% of the budget allocated to the sector- and yet 72 of every 100 Ugandans are deriving their livelihoods from it. For a sector that contributes 23% to the GDP of Uganda, agriculture, and particularly agricultural extension -it’s heart and soul- ought to be prioritized in the country’s financial allocations.