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06/2016. Key issues from the listening-in dialogues that took place on 8th June 2016

BY MARILYN KABALERE, Advocacy Officer
Posted: June 2016

As you may be aware, the Uganda national budget for financial year 2016/2017 was read on June 8, 2016. PELUM Uganda organized listening-in dialogues for its members in different regions across the country immediately after the budget reading. The objectives of these dialogues were to; 1) Mobilize farmers, civil society and government leaders to listen in to the budget reading; and 2) Create awareness on the budget allocations to the sector and document concerns/in-put regarding funding to the Agriculture sector.

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The PELUM Uganda Country Board Vice Chairperson- Harriet Ndagire Sempebwa (L) and the Advocacy thematic committee chairperson-Julius Musiimenta (C) participate in the Central region listening-in dialogue (Photo: PELUM Uganda)

A review of each of the regional listening-in dialogues revealed emerging issues that need further discussion. These include;

Eastern Region dialogue organized by Community Integrated Development Initiative (CIDI) 

  • Civil society organizations (CSOs) and local leaders need to prioritise the issue of sensitizing farmers on how they can benefit from the current budget allocation to the agriculture sector.
  • Cooperative societies and Unions were not talked about in the budget and yet this is a good approach of empowering farmers. Cooperative movements contributed a lot to the former economic glory of Uganda.
  • Uplifting Soroti flying school does not touch agriculture directly. Why didn’t government allocate resources to set up a fruit factory and other projects that are directly linked to agriculture within the Teso region?
  • Why does the government make commitments which it cannot manage for example, the Malabo declaration of allocating 10% of the national budget to agriculture? And why is it that some countries are able to achieve these allocations or almost reaching there but Uganda can not?
  • There is an appreciation of increased allocation to all sectors but mostly support sectors to agriculture such as; transport, ICT and energy. What is important is to keenly consider the return on investment on some of these sectors because according to the recently released IMF report, Uganda is only able to receive a seventh of a shilling invested. If we consider the allocation of about Ugx 3trillion to roads and Ugx 832billion to agriculture, when you build the roads, what will you be transporting on them?
  • The budget did not have any allocation to address issues of land rights and yet this is an issue that directly affects smallholder farmers in most parts of Uganda. This should be considered if we are to benefit from the increased allocations to agriculture

Northern Region dialogue organized by Caritas Nebbi

Much as the farmers were impressed with the increment in the budget allocation to the Agriculture sector from Ugx 479.6 billion to Ugx 823.4 billion, a lot remains to be desired.

  • Information does not reach farmers. Farmers gave an example of District extension workers who lacked information on the NASE 19 cassava variety and also the fact that they did not know about governments agriculture insurance fund.
  • Funds retained centrally are much higher than what comes to the District production department.
  • The budget for agriculture should increase to 10% if higher productivity in agriculture is to be realized.
  • Farmers do not see the need of building stores for fertilizers. They argue that some areas perform extremely well without fertilizers. However, to maintain soil nutrients, they need to be trained by extension workers on how best they can make organic fertilizers to increase productivity.
  • Members stressed that there was no mention of supporting cooperative societies to handle bumper harvests in the Albertine region.
  • It was also mentioned that extension services mainly provide seed inputs to farmers leaving out vital information such as market linkages. Participants wanted to know where and who the rice producers were in West Nile region. They called for the Districts to strengthen their monitoring system to ensure seeds reach farmers in time.
  • Farmers’ views are being ignored in regard to inputs being provided to them. The case of improved cassava stock that was distributed during the dry spell.  CSOs  also condemned the distribution of grafted fruits to the region. These, they said, were overshadowing the indigenous fruits. The  grafted fruits were found to have a short life span and were very vulnerable to weather changes.
  • Farmers are not consulted to conduct seed testing for viability prior to planting. Government should sensitize farmers on this.
  • Farmers were in agreement with the presence of research centers. However, they requested these regional centers to link up with the district through the extension service personnel so that farmers are engaged more in crop research and and planting of good varieties.

Central Region dialogue Organized by PELUM Uganda country secretariat

  • There is need to establish strategic deliverables of focus for the extension system for the year 2016/2017. This will ensure value for the money.
  • The budget did not clearly state how agriculture commercialization was to be achieved i.e. from the subsistence level.  The strategies that were mentioned do not focus on smallholder farmers and yet the percentage of smallholder farmers is increasing.
  • The money allocated for extension services is not sufficient for the number of districts in Uganda.
  • Seeds given out by the extension system have high mortality rates of over 20%. CSOs were called upon to follow up on such products in order to have value for money.
  • The allocation of 48% of the Money to the Extension services Secretariat was not proper since the money does not benefit the intended beneficiaries.
  • Lack of consultations by the Extension services program at farmer level has resulted into poor service delivery hence misuse of the tax payer’s money.
  • Lack of a proper framework for urban agriculture and yet Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) has its own. This leaves out the other urbanized centers.
  • The abandonment of the Cotton development authority by the government is a gap that need to be bridged.
  • There is need to advocate for capacity building of the farmers and strengthening of cooperatives to enable farmers access credit.
  • The biggest portion of the money allocated to the agriculture sector should be channeled to improving value addition techniques so as to avoid importation of expensive products such as coffee.
  • There is need to advocate for increment of the budget allocation to the agriculture sector to 10% as promised by the president.
  • There is need to advocate for the improvement of the agricultural extension program from a Top-down approach to a Bottom-up approach.
  • There is need to build synergies between government and CSOs in order to have value for money and hold government accountable.
  • CSOs should advocate for an agricultural bank so that money allocated can be borrowed directly by the farmers.
  • The problems of farmers are not about seedlings but access to knowledge and identifying and dealing with challenges such as pests and diseases and climate change effects. Therefore, any  agrisultural extension program should focus on service delivery rather than input delivery.

Western Region dialogue organized by Caritas Kabale

  • Total centralization of the input funds at the Agricultural Extension (formerly NAADS) secretariat. This makes implementation of input quality assurance, input delivery and monitoring of impacts at the last recipient strenuously bureaucratic and late coming. Testimonies from participants indicated that this has resulted into poor quality inputs, late delivery and  irrelevant inputs delivered to farmers.
  • There is no coordination between the centre and the local government on procurement of inputs. Suppliers are just dumping inputs in communities without knowledge of the sub county chief. It is difficult to intervene especially since the quality assurance mandate is not vested with the recipient or the technical staff at the local government.

Recommendation: Re-allocation of duties of input quality assessment, delivery and monitoring of input impacts to the lower level local government.

  • Emphasis on export oriented, plantation agriculture inputs; this will be to the disadvantage of the smallholder farmers whose business largely depends on the traditional food/cash crops. Research, extension and inputs are likely to sideline the traditional food/cash crops.

Common emerging issues from the four regions

  • Decentralization of NAADs program (use of bottom- up approach) to avoid delivery of undesired inputs.
  • Emphasis on extension services by NAADs rather than input delivery.
  • Strengthening of cooperatives
  • Advocating for the 10% budget increment as promised by the president.
  • Emphasis on capacity building and information dissemination to small scale farmers.
  • Consideration for urban agriculture just as for the case of KCCA should be put in place.

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