THE RUN FOR THE NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL EXTENTION POLICY IN UGANDA
Three-quarters of the world’s poorest billion people live in rural areas, and majority depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and survival. Encouraging the growth of the agricultural sector is therefore one of the most effective ways of tackling poverty and reducing hunger and malnutrition. In Uganda, the Agricultural sector is very key in the national economy. Rural livelihood and the food security of Ugandans all depend on this sector. As the backbone of Uganda’s economy, agriculture accounts for over 75% of total employment, over 26% of the GDP, and 45% of foreign exchange earnings. It also provides the basis for growth in other sectors such as manufacturing and the related services industry.
Agricultural extension is of paramount importance in the agricultural sector and rural development in general. There has been much debate in Uganda over the last fifteen years about the appropriate approach, coverage, and performance of the agricultural extension system. This debate has taken place within the evolving context of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme, an extension delivery approach that targeted the development and use of farmer institutions; and the Single Spine Extension System.
In Teso sub region, agriculture is the predominate source of livelihood for the estimated population of about 2.5 million people in the region. However, this region which exemplifies legacies of unacknowledged conflict and human rights violations is still devastated economically and socially. In addition, the region is prone to adverse climate related disasters which have resulted in strong seasonal and annual variation in production.
Although majority of the people in this region depend on agriculture, extension services are scarce or non-existent in some places. Since2012,, members of the Non-State Actors Working Group on Agricultural Extension have been holding a campaign aimed at ensuring that the AEAS Policy reforms bring about an effective, efficient and inclusive Agricultural Extension Service Delivery System.
In February 2016 with support from Food Rights Alliance, Trocaire and Trust Africa Foundation, the group held a consultative meeting in Teso Region to solicit views from a broad range of stakeholders to define how extension service delivery in the country should be modelled and delivered to improve the livelihoods of farmers and increase availability of food.
During the consultation, the people of Teso region accentuated the core issues of financing of the Agriculture Extension; the delivery mechanisms and the managing of institutional linkages of the MAAIF policy framework. They stressed that the policy should place emphasis on linkages with agricultural research and an input distribution system The farmers in Teso are envisaging a “supper Extensionist” meaning one who is fullu fledged to provide them with all round basic support before calling a subject matter specialist. In addition communities being agro pastoral subscribe to the principle of communual access to extension services especially for animal pest and disease control.
Just like Teso, the rest of Uganda needs a functional, effective and efficient extension system. Government will need to show commitment to develop a viable and efficient Agriculture extension system by starting with the development of human capital to deliver extension services to farmers. Additionally, all stakeholders in the sector should exercise mutual accountability and joint action to realise effective implementation of the policy.
By Hilda Nabakooza
FRA Project Officer