On 13th of March, a number of stakeholders came together for a validation workshop. The workshop was regulatory impact assessment for the National Fertilizer policy for Uganda. As she opened the workshop, Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, the executive director of EPRC revealed that there was need to increase fertilizer usage by small holder farmers in Uganda.
Her comments were further enhanced by a Ministry official who said that “70% of the fertilizer imported into Uganda is used by large scale farms especially tea and sugarcane plantations.” It was Drake Rukundo’s presentation that called for an urgent need to pass and implement the fertilizer policy.
In his submission, it was noted that out of the required 50kg/Ha/Annum, Uganda was adding only 1kg/Ha/Annum making the country one of the least in fertilizer use in the whole world. Rwanda farmers use 29kg/Ha/annum, Kenya 35kg/Ha/annum while South Africans were at 60kg/Ha/annum. To Rukundo, if government does nothing, there was a risk of having an unregulated sector. This would result in a high cost of fertilizer among other things. “Ugandan soils are not as great as they were 30 years ago, however applying fertilizer alone won’t cut it,” he emphasized.
Even though 51.2% of arable land in East Africa is in Uganda, most of it remains unutilized. Adding salt to injury, the agricultural sector which contributes 26% to the national cake continues to receive 2% as its budget allocation. Rukundo thus wondered how government expected more from the agricultural production sector when it was not investing.
When passed and implemented, the National Fertilizer Policy will get Uganda at least 30kg of nutrients per hectare per annum by 2020. But to do this, Rukundo noted there will also be need to have a fertilizer market development unit in the Ministry of Agriculture. This would also roll out punitive action for those who cheat the system.
It now remains to be seen whether the policy will finally be adopted despite its evolution having started in 2010. With a phosphate industry in motion in Tororo District, the need for the policy has never ached more than ever before.