Government, though the Ministry of Agriculture, is in the process of adopting a new policy that will ensure all farmers across the country have Universal access to Agricultural Extension services providers.
The new system will see government recruit extension service providers at parish levels.
This is opposed to the current one where the officers are at the District and Sub country levels which government says may not yield good results.
Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja told experts in agriculture extension services providers that the parish-village model is more practical for the farmers.
The experts were attending the 2nd Annual Uganda National Agricultural Extension Services Symposium in Kampala last week
“Cabinet is in the final stage of endorsing the model which is considered to be farmers friendly as compared to the current one where government has been recruiting officers up to the sub country, the current model may not help us. When we adopt the parish level model, then the ratio of farmers to extension services providers will improve as compare to the current situation where an extension worker ration is about 1:200 farmers,” he explained
He said that government is working closely with Makerere University to develop the document which will guide the ministry in implementing the parish model. The minister noted that apart from developing the document, the institutions are also responsible in training the man power to work at the parish level model.
Under the current model, government has been recruiting only graduates in the field of Crop science, Livestock and Fisheries of which it won’t be the same under the Parish level model. According to the Minister, government will be recruiting diploma holders in various fields to fill in the posts of agricultural extension services providers at the parish level.
Key Ingredients in the Parish Model
Under the new system the Extension services providers at the parish level will be required to mentor model farmers at every Village who will be trained in Agronomy, Agro business entrepreneurs among other skills that are relevant to the local farmers. These farmers will act as Village change agents where other farmers can go and learn best practices in the Agriculture sector.
“Once we mentor these village model farmers in the long run they will be in position to train their fellow farmers,” the minister said.
During the meeting the minister assured the general public that developed Countries especially European Unions, America re willing to buy Ugandan produces but the challenges relies on productivity to meet the demanded supplies, thus that is why government is trying to come up with Initiatives that can engineer farmers to improve on their productivity.
Making keynote presentation on making extension and advisory services a transformation force in Uganda’s Agriculture Sector, Dr Margaret Najjingo Mangheni, an Associate professor in the Department of Extension and Innovation studies at Makerere University, said that access to agriculture extension services is key towards the sector’s transformation.
“Agriculture sector contribution in the country’s Gross domestic product is not progressing because of the challenges many farmers are facing at the production and post-harvesting but all these can be solved if farmers are accessing the Extension services providers to guide them in the best practices. Access to Agricultural Extension services can booster improvement in the production of crops Livestock and fish in the Agriculture sector thus making the country food secure,” she explained.
The 2nd Annual Conference was organized by Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders drawn from all over the country. These included public officials, academia, private sector players, farmer organizations and development partners.
During the meeting, participants especially the youth challenged government go come up with youth friendly agricultural policies that will support them to effectively participate in the Sector currently being dominated by the aging population.
“The sector will not develop when the largest stakeholders especially in the production chain are the aging population , government need to come up with policies that entices the younger generation to effectively participate in the sector,” said James Opio a student from Kyambogo University.
Among the key issues which the government was urged to work on is the issues related to the application of ICT in the sector. Other youth participants said the current system makes agriculture sector to be expensive to them thus the need to develop Infrastructures that can support the application of ICT in the Agriculture sector.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO