By: Charles Masereka Yoronimu
Uganda’s agriculture sector has failed to develop at the annually projected rates, a fact that has kept many away from engaging in the sector.
With much of the undertakings dependent on rain fed water, a lot has remained to be desired. Production rates are generally low and below target required to feed the populace. Drought has continued to hurt the sector due to climate change.
There is also a case of subsistence production and this has kept the incomes of those engaged in this mode of production relatively low.
With low incomes for the farmers, it has become increasingly difficult to access agricultural inputs and yet these are what is required to progressively develop the sector.
With government’s desire to mechanize the agriculture sector, access to the necessary machinery is a challenge. With credit access in Uganda almost impossible especially for those engaged in agriculture due to the uncertainty of returns from the sector, there is need to revise policies to the sector by both government and lending institutions.
The high taxes levied on the inputs make it so difficult for farmers to own the same. Take for instance an irrigation system. This costs between $1000-$4000, with over 17% of the cost going into taxes. The same applies to a fully installed green house. An average cost of this is between $10,000-$30,000.
In China, food production is adequate and yet they don’t have enough arable land with the soils that Africa for instance carries pride in. This is because much of the agriculture is done in green houses that are cheap and easily accessed by the natives.
Irrigation is another practice that the Chinese government has heavily invested in. Another case is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
This desert country has continued to flourish in the agriculture sector as compared to the rest of the world. This is because farmers are offered incentives by the government to effectively increase food production. The government for example offers subsidies on fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides. It also provides loans for machinery and technical assistance.
If we are to lead Uganda to middle income status in the near future, we must start by developing and investing in the key sectors of the economy, with agriculture taking the first slot since it employs over 70% of the nation’s workforce. Mechanization of agriculture can only be attained if the machinery required is easily accessed by the farmers. There is need to revise the costs and taxes that are imposed on all inputs for the agriculture sector.
As we await the reading of the 2017/2018 national budget, let us educate all Ugandans on the benefits of irrigation and general mechanization of the agriculture sector and then reduce on the taxes imposed on irrigation systems as well as all other agricultural inputs that are fundamental to the sector, to make them cheap and easy for our farmers to purchase.
The author is a Social Entrepreneur and Climate Change Activist.