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Rwabwogo roots for farming development

Odrek Rwabwogo has called for farming and agriculture support across the country. Odrek who was on a farm tour in    Northern Uganda and Hoima over the weekend said agriculture is key to development.

He crititised some of the ministries’ officials of government have been discouraging farmers from growing Shea butter trees and yet offer no alternative to the farmers who have for several decades grown this crop.

Odrek also called for sensitization of farmers on commercial farming.

“I met this young man in Keri Muco, Longira parish in Upper Maddi in Koboko district yesterday. He is doing his best to preserve some of the Shea butter trees that peasants have been cutting and burning for charcoal. Shea butter has natural vitamins and is often used for skin therapy. A large part of Northern Uganda have these trees growing naturally. This young man is a trained agronomist from Gulu and oversees the planting of a large eucalyptus tree plantation of 103 acres expecting a growth of 515,000 trees in the next six years.

The trees will be bought by the Tobacco curing companies instead of the people cutting down natural forests. Some of the ministries’ officials of government have been discouraging farmers from growing the crop yet offer no alternative to the farmers who have for several decades grown this crop.

I was so pleased to find one person making a difference to recover our natural environment and help keep the Shea butter tree rejuvenating,” Odrek said.

“Today I spent the day with the farmers of Opit in the new Omoro district, formerly Gulu, before crossing over to Kiryandongo where I met Eseru Paul and his wonderful team of extension officers and later, Buhanika in Kyabigambire in Hoima district.

In Hoima we took time and calculated the total annual income from one common crop they grow- Tobacco. At about an acre, the average for a farmer both in Bunyoro and West Nile, with 12,000 seeds, a farmer makes up to UGX3m for one cropping a year. Because government does not offer fertilisers, crop finance and other inputs, for the crop sector, the tobacco sponsoring companies offer these and instead recover well over UGX1m off the 3m they pay to the farmers.

If we assume a figure of UGX120,000/= a month the farmer retains, we calculated with them their monthly needs which include: Paraffin, soap, sugar, salt, school fees for the I children, family medication, small amount of air time at 10,000/= a month (because almost all the farmers have a cellphone), transport to the shops etc, we got a total expenditure at a household level of UGX150,000/=.

This means the farmer simply can’t live on one acre of Tobacco even if the incentives might be good. You must introduce to him sorghum or maize or a crop to supplement both the food and income.

This gave me an Idea. Suppose government did a partnership with private companies that are already in the sector; some of them have very highly trained extension service officers (remember the whole of NAADS and OWC doesn’t have even half of the 5000 extension officers needed by our country to reach at least a minimum of two parishes for one officer- Uganda has about 7500 parishes), who only handle one crop. The companies among themselves have about 500 extension officers in villages and parishes who they pay monthly and on average 80% of them have a motorbike.

Let’s assume NAADS signed a partnership with these companies and utilized the private sector resources now used on simply one crop, would we not introduce another cash crop for the farmers at a fraction of the current government expenditure on extension service?

These are matters that bother me and lack a platform in our party and government to drive the current slow processes so as to introduce these incremental changes in our systems,” Odrek Rwabwogo said.

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