Arua, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Local leaders in West Nile under their umbrella body, West Nile Development Association (WENDA) have resolved to adopt vegetable production as an alternative to tobacco.
Farmers and locals in West Nile have been stuck to growing tobacco and simsim, as their main source of income over the years. But leaders have now commenced a transition from traditional tobacco growing to horticulture, for both food and employment purposes.
Their resolution follows a survey that indicated that 71.3 per cent of tomatoes and other vegetables consumed in the region come from elsewhere. The survey was conducted by Makerere University Business school (MUBS) Arua campus.
John Ariko, the lead researcher and lecturer at MUBS Arua campus explained that the region loses about 10.9 billion Shillings through the importation of tomatoes. He was presenting, the research findings during the regional WENDA assembly held at Muni University on Thursday.
Dr Abbey Thomas Anyazo, the Executive Director of PALM Corps, a local NGO operating in West Nile and Northern Uganda observes that a transition from traditional tobacco growing to vegetable production for West Nile is long overdue, owing to the benefits associated with the enterprise.
Regina Eceru, one of the leading suppliers of vegetable commodities in Arua city, says there is currently a high demand for horticulture commodities in the region. She says on average, she imports eight tracks of vegetables every week from outside the region to meet the current demand for vegetables.
Meanwhile, Fred Ocoku, a vegetable farmer in Likido village, Terego district who started vegetable farming in 2020 says that in a period of two years, he was able to realize 20 million Shillings from the sale of tomatoes.
Charity Ocaya, the sub-county chief of Warr in Zombo district welcomed the initiative and observed a need for mindset change among the farmers.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Uganda exports 5.8 million tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables worth USD 35 million a year.