As Uganda joined the rest of the World to celebrate the World Food Day on October 16, farmers under the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF Uganda) want the government to subsidize agricultural mechanization equipment to make it affordable to small-scale farmers.
Addressing a press conference, ESAFF Uganda chairperson Hakim Baliraine said the current market prices for some agricultural machines such as tractors are too high especially for smallholder farmers yet they are the majority stakeholders in the Agriculture sector
“The cost of production is high because of using traditional rudimentary tools, therefore, government should come in to ensure that we farmers can access modern farming tools such walking tractors, oxen ploughs and other machines this will lower the cost of production in the agricultural sector thus enhance agricultural production which will make Uganda food secure,” he said.
However, a senior officer in the Ministry of Agriculture who spoke to East African Business Week on condition of anonymity said the government can only support farmers to acquire agricultural machines when they are in groups.
“The challenge in the sector is that most farmers are operating at the individual level; it makes it very difficult to support such farmers. Let them form farming groups that is when the government will respond easily to their problems,” the officer said.
Women owning land
Apart from the equipment, the farmers also want government should to look into the issue of women owning land. It was noted that though the majority of Ugandan women access to land for substance farming, they don’t have the right to own such resources something that has affected their meaningful participation in the agriculture sector.
“The more women have equal rights on land, Uganda’s agricultural sector will grow at a high rate since they contribute much in the sector; without the right to own land, this will remain a big hindrance to the transformation of the sector,” Balirane noted.
Every year, on October 16th, World Food Day is celebrated globally to help raise awareness on issues concerning hunger, poverty and malnutrition, and to strengthen the political will to take action. The focus of the day is that food is a basic and fundamental human right.
Millions face chronic hunger
In a world of billions of people, it is estimated that 805 million people worldwide live face chronic hunger, 60% of women and almost 5 million children under the age of five dies of malnutrition-related causes every day. Extreme hunger and malnutrition unavoidably create a barrier to sustainable development since many people become unproductive, more prone to diseases thus unable to improve their livelihoods,
This year’s theme of “A Zero hunger world by 2030 is possible” is derived from pillar 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals of ‘Zero hunger” which aims at ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. The main approach to reach the goal is to increase agricultural productivity and the incomes of small-scale food producers in particular women and the grassroots people.
In order to achieve Zero Hunger World by 2030, farmers demand the government to respect global obligations which the country ratified such as the Malabo declaration in which the African Heads of states agreed to allocate 10% of their National Budget to the agriculture sectors. An increment in the budget will enhance the building of resilience to shocks, including adapting to the effects of climate change.
The mismatch in designing agricultural policies as well as lack of adequate funds for implementation of the agricultural sector policy strategies has made it very difficult to create food production systems that help maintain ecosystems and that can be able to adapt to climate change, drought, weather or any other disasters in farming communities.
Why more resources should be invested in the Agriculture sector
Uganda as country has one of the fast growing population on the African continent, such a high population can cause hunger, however, Uganda as a country has potential to produce sufficient food to meet its consumption needs and surplus to export to other countries but the main problem lays with inequality in access to the available resources especially the small-scale farmers who are the major producers of food.
Beti Aguti the Policy and Advocacy Specialist at Caritas Uganda, at the same event, called upon the government to ensure that farmers have access to cheap irrigation technologies.
She noted that over depending on rainwater is becoming a big challenge to farmers, especially in the water-stressed regions this will support farmers to grow more food for both domestic consumption and export.
On the government’s decision to give Shs100 billion to Uganda Grains council, “We the small-scale farmers are urging government recall the Shs100 billion allocated to buy off excess maize through Uganda Grain Council to be directly transferred to farmers through cooperatives or organized groups,” Balirane said.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO