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Forget oil, agriculture remains real game changer in Uganda

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By Edward Makobore

History, going back to biblical times, is heavily laden with stories demonstrating food as an ultimate game changer.

In Genesis, there was the story of Essau selling his birthright to his younger brother for a bowl of food. He was very hungry after a hunting expedition that his birthright meant nothing in the face of hunger.

In more recent times, oral history tells of how the Basiita of Ankole handed over kingship to the Bahinda clan for a bowl of millet. Again like in the case of Cain and Abel, the throne or kingship meant nothing to Kasiita in the face of hunger.

In Uganda, there has been a lot of hullabaloo about the discovery of oil, but there is one major game-changer that is not being given the required attention. And this game-changer is food.

In the Budget of 2019/2020, agriculture was allocated Shs900 billion behind health, infrastructure and other service sectors. This allocation is not only insufficient to cause the desired change, it is also below the 10 per cent budget allocation to agriculture agreed upon by African nations during Maputo Declaration.

Any nation, family or individual who does not plan their food supply risks not only being exposed to hunger, but they also risk being subjugated by those who have planned their food supply. This has happened in the past and can still happen.

Uganda may be lucky not to have faced a major countrywide drought in recent years, but we have not leveraged well on our God-given advantage.

To illustrate this point better, we can compare two nations Uganda which has a comparative advantage in agriculture and Isreal which doesn’t.

Isreal is much smaller than Uganda, actually it is 10 times smaller than Uganda. Israel’s land surface is 20,770 square kilometres while Uganda’s land size is 200,520 square kilometres. The arable land in Israel is 20 per cent of the land while Uganda has 34 per cent of its land as arable land.

Uganda, therefore, has 6.5 million hectares of arable land while Israel has only 215,000 hectares of arable land. The arable land in Uganda is 30 times more than the arable land in Israel.

But how have the two nations performed? From the 215,000 ha of arable land Israel has, it is one of the world’s largest exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also one of the leading exporters of agriculture produce.

Israel currently exports about $2.5 billion worth of agriculture produce per year while Uganda, which has 6.5 million hectares of arable land exports $840 million of agriculture produce per year. This is about three times less than what Israel exports and yet we have 30 times more arable land.

If Uganda was as efficient as Israel, we should be able to export $75 million worth of agriculture produce every year. Uganda ought to be an economic power house.

Many developed nation’s and a few developing countries with foresight have not only stopped at driving for greater agriculture production, but they are also storing in food reserves.

In Empires Of Food, authors Evan D. G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas discuss how the establishment of strategic grain reserves has been by-key to food security since Joseph advised the pharoah on the meaning of his dream. “The first rule of a successful food empire is to keep the larder stocked”.
Without secure food supply even the stoutest ring of fortification won’t protect a society from being overrun by Huns.”

On top of feeding, it is more than 1 billion people, China currently has grain reserves of about 200 million tonnes. They hold 48 per cent of the global wheat reserves.

In contrast Uganda has storage capacity of 920,000 MT. This storage levels not only make us vulnerable in case of famine, but it also compromises our economic strength.

Nation’s with foresight know that much as other sectors such as the service sector are important, agriculture sector still retains the top spot.

A human being can do without other services or even the much hyped about oil, but cannot do without food for more than a week.

Therefore, prudent planning for a nation, Uganda inclusive, should prioritise agriculture or food planning for present and future food needs to avoid a possible Cane-Abel scenario.
Uganda has all it takes to be an economic powerhouse if it focused most of its energy on food production. Oil is important but food still remains Paramount.

Original Post: Daily Monitor

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Anti-tick vaccine drive gives hope to farmers

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Dairy farmers in Ankole Sub-region are optimistic that the anti-tick vaccine launched by the government will solve their problem of tick resistance to acaricides.
For the last 10 years, dairy farmers across the country have decried tick resistance to acaricides, which has been ravaging the livestock sector.

Mr Emmanuel Kyeishe, a resident of Rushere in Kiruhura District and dairy farmer with more than 100 head of cattle, says dairy farmers in the cattle corridor have battled the problem of tick resistance for a long time.
“The issue of ticks has been rampant in the cattle corridor to the extent of losing our cows. We spend a lot on treating them because of ticks since they infect animals with several diseases,”  he said.

Mr Kyeishe said he loses at least two cows every month to tick-borne diseases like East Coast Fever and heart water.
“I have lost 180 cows in the last five years due to ticks and tick-borne diseases. If they do not die, they get blind and some lose their skin. But if we get a vaccine, it will have saved us a lot,” he said.
Mr Kyeishe added that he has resorted to mixing agrochemicals with acaricides since the available ones on the market are failing.

Mr Jackson Bells Katongole, a dairy farmer in Kashari, Mbarara District, said if the government’s move to have anti-tick vaccine is successful, quality of dairy products would improve.
“A farmer loses at least two to five cows every month and we have resorted to using different concoctions from Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya because the problem of ticks has made us helpless,” he said.
He added: “We had reached the point of mixing pesticides with acaricides because of tick resistance and in the process our cows have gone blind, lost skin and others died.”

Mr Katongole further said each cow that dies is valued at around Shs2.5 million, which means that a farmer loses Shs5 million every month.
The Mbarara City Veterinary Officer, Dr Andrew Akashaba, said in Mbarara alone, there are about 60,000 head of cattle, mostly exotic breeds which are prone to ticks.
“Most of the exotic breeds of cattle are at a high risk of acquiring ticks and tick borne diseases, which are a major hindrance to livestock development in the cattle corridor,” he said.
Mr Akashaba added that between 2,000 and 3,000 cows die annually in Mbarara alone due to tick-related diseases.

While launching the final clinical trial of anti-tick vaccine manufactured by National Agriculture Research Organisation at Mbarara Zardi on Thursday, the deputy director general and research coordinator, Dr Yona Baguma, assured the farmers that once the vaccine is approved, they will be spraying their cattle against ticks twice in six months as opposed to twice a week.

Original source: Monitor

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Farmers fail to access farm inputs on Ministry e-platform

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About 3,640 model farmers in Nebbi District, who were registered under the Agricultural Cluster Development Programme (ACDP) to access agricultural inputs on E-voucher, are stuck after failure of the system.

The farmers say the system has affected their planting patterns.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry under the Agriculture cluster Development Programme (ACDP) introduced the e-voucher system five years ago to enable farmers access agricultural inputs electronically.

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Farmers on alert as new banana virus hits Western Uganda

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Farmers should stop getting banana plantlets from districts in Western and North-West Uganda to stop the spread of the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) disease, Hebert Musiimenta, the Principal Agricultural Inspector in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries-MAAIF has advised.

The Banana Bunchy Top Virus was first observed in the western Uganda districts in late 2020. In July this year, the ministry raised a red flag when the disease caused havoc on banana plantations in West Nile, Rwenzori and Tooro regions.

An infected plant presents with severe stunting, narrow leaves, chlorotic leaf margins, and dark green streaks on petioles and midribs. The affected plant also shows a rosette-like or bunchy and choked appearance. Diseased plants rarely produce fruit and when they do, the fruit is stunted and twisted.

The disease is spread by aphids and the planting of affected tubers.

The disease has the capacity to wipe out banana gardens within 3 to 5 years unless farmers practice the control measures such as the proper destruction of affected stems, control of aphids, and planting clean materials.

Hebert Musiimenta, Principal Agricultural Inspector in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), says to contain the spread of the disease, farmers should stop getting banana planting materials from Nebbi, Zombo, Arua, Maracha, and Koboko districts in North-West Uganda and Bunyangabu, Kasese, Kabarore, and Bundibugyo districts in Western Uganda.

He also advises the farmers to be cautious about planting materials from Kisoro, Kabale, Ntungamo, and Isingiro districts since they are near the border.  The disease is suspected to have spread to Uganda from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. Musiimenta advised farmers in an interview with URN that if they are to pick planting materials, they should first consult agriculture officers in their areas to recommend safe planting materials.

Musimenta revealed that a team of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries, and Fisheries is investigating the prevalence of the virus in Kigezi region specifically districts neighboring Rwanda and DR Congo.

He says the disease has the capacity to wipe out banana gardens within 3 to 5 years unless farmers practice the control measures such as the proper destruction of affected stems, control of aphids, and planting clean materials.

Original Source: URN via The independent

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