Three top Chief Executive Officers from three different sectors have called on government and the private sector to think big about transforming Uganda’s current peasantry and subsistence agriculture, to a new commercial level
Jimmy Mugerwa, the General Manager at Tullow Oil Uganda, William Sekabembe, the Executive Director at dfcu and Robert Kabushenga, the CEO of Vision group, have re-emphasised the need to reorganise farmers into groups so as to deal with challenges of agriculture.
They argued for new methods of work and organisation with emphasis on increased production and productivity (agri-business), marketing, technological innovations, capital creation.
The top corporate officials were speaking at an event on June 15 in Kampala where the minister of agriculture, Christopher Kibanzanga, flagged off a group of 13 farmers to the Netherlands to learn more on modern agriculture.
Netherlands is one of the leading exporters of agriculture products in the world. It has best technology and methods of modern farming suitable for improving production and productivity.
The group was sponsored through an initiative started by DFCU bank, Vision Group, KLM and the Kingdom of Netherlands four year ago.
“Be good ambassadors out there…so we grow the sector [agriculture] and Uganda in general,” Mugerwa told the 13 farmers who would later leave for the Netherlands on June 17.
Agriculture sector growth declined to around 1% in the first three quarters of this financial year largely due to drought.
Uganda is embraced with fertile soils capable of supporting crop and animal husbandry of diverse types.
On the other hand, Kabushenga urged farmers to think big in terms of acreage, methods of farming, networking, capital and more if they are to benefit from the sector that employs over 70% of the entire population.
On his part, Sekabembe said, DFCU is open to taking part in ideas that would boost the sector’s fortunes in line with the country’s growth agenda.
Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija has allocated agriculture sector 3.8% (Shs 828.5bn) of the Shs 29 trillion new budget whose implementations starts 14 days from today. The sector was allocated Shs 823.4 bn in this ending financial year.
The allocations are largely covering areas of extension services, irrigation and provision of inputs in addition to administration costs for government agencies and departments running the sector.
Critics say 3.8% allocation is small and means government cares less to the sector that employs majority of the population. They say (critics) that government pays attention to development sectors – works and transport plus energy – that many think are sources of ‘illegal’ revenue to corrupt government officials.
But government officials have previously argued that Uganda’s agriculture sector is private sector led and that government’s bigger investments in roads and power dams complement agricultural activities.
These two contrasting arguments have generally left most Ugandan smallholder farmers lonely or to the mercy of private sector companies that have budgets for corporate social responsibility which, to some analysts, is not enough to cover the majority of the population engage in the sector.