Smallholder farmers have asked the Government to involve them in the budget formulation process as they believe that it’s the only way their views and voices will be heard.
The farmers who converged in Kampala to discuss the recently passed Uganda 2019/20 budget, argue that on many occasions, their views are not represented in the final budget which affects them as smallholder farmers.
“On many occasions, we are not consulted during the whole Budget process yet we have many challenges that we need to be addressed in the budget. The Ministry of Finance in collaboration with that of Local Government should ensure that smallholder farmers are also brought on board,” said Christine Nabwami a smallholder farmers from Mityana in Central Uganda.
She added that involving smallholder farmers in the budget formulation process will empower them to monitor the implementation of the budget at the grass root level.
This was during the Farmers’ Budget Dialogue that was organized by the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Farmers Forum( EASFF ) Uganda chapter an organization that brings together smallholder farmers in Uganda.
The objective of the meeting was to assess the budget allocated to the Agriculture sector in the financial year 2019/2020.
During the meeting, farmers noted that although Government increased the Agriculture Budget to the tune of UGX1.05Trillions in Financial year 2019/20 which translate to 2.6% of the national budget up from the 2.4% of the National budget in the financial year 2018/2019, they say the increment will not support the transformation of the sector.
Farmers also alleged that the budget intends to benefit only large scale farmers at their cost.
During the meeting, farmers reasoned that most of the challenges affecting them will not be solved by the budget as it was presented by the Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaijja during the budget speech.
“Most important components in the sector were allocated little resources yet they play big roles towards supporting the smallholder farmers in the Agriculture sector.
“The most subcomponent that we believe are crucial are Extension services, access to cheap irrigation equipment and Scientific Research Knowledge.
“We applaud the Government for increasing the budget allocation from UGX893Billion in FY2018/19 to UGX1.05Trillions in FY2019/20 but the current budget may not solve the key issues in the sector because of underfunding of the key components in the sector ,“ said Margret Masudio a Smallholder farmer from Adjumani during the dialogue at EASFF head offices in Ntinda .
In the budget, recruitment of Agricultural Extension Officers was allocated UGX107Bn yet the total budget in the financial year was budgeted to cost UGX 230.2 Bn, which leaves a deficit of UGX108.2 Bn.
Most farmers think that such a funding gap will impact them drastically because they will not have access to Agricultural Extension Services as a result of failure to recruit Extension Services Providers.
The current Recruitment of Agricultural Extension Workers stands at 3,827 of 5000. The current ratio of extension to farmers is 1:1800. The recommended figure globally is 1:500.
It means that it would require the government to recruit 12,000 extension staff. The 5000 extension staffs were for 116 districts in 2015/16. The Districts have since increased to 128, an addition of 12 districts and 94 sub-counties.
The approved structure is 13 officers at the district level and 2+1 extension staff at sub-county level (2 being crop and livestock and 1/3 being fisheries).
“As smallholder farmers, we need these technical people because they teach farmers how to improve their productivity.
“The Extension officers are also critical to move research from the lab to the field and to ensure a return on investment in research by translating new knowledge into innovative practices,” said Ngunga Tabula a smallholder farmer from Masaka.
Ronald Bagaga the Program Officer, Research and Policy at Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) Uganda said the continued underfunding in the Agriculture sector will keep a majority of Ugandans below the poverty line which is a big obstacle towards attaining Sustainable Development Goals.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO