Print

Agriculture remains a key contributor to Uganda’s economic development and it has been Government’s intention to ensure that the sector grows at an impressive rate. The government has implemented several reforms in agricultural extension systems, with the most recent one being the reversal to the single unified public agricultural extension system, which the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has baptised the “single spine agricultural extension system”. The single spine agricultural extension system was adopted by government in June 2014; and has been implemented for close to two years now.  The system aims at harmonizing and coordinating all extension service delivery in the country to address the inefficiencies associated with its predecessor systems - the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) together with the single unified public agricultural extension system.  One of the key tenets of the single spine system is to coordinate extension service delivery countrywide both in public and private sectors.

 

 

It is a universally acknowledged fact that presence of an effective and efficient agricultural extension system is critical for farmers to acquire advice and knowledge on new improved technologies & practices, which ultimately translate into agricultural development. However, history shows that previous reforms in agricultural extension systems in Uganda were never successful largely due to inadequate funding. One now wonders whether this time round Government is committed to financing implementation of the single spine extension reform.  Budget allocations to provision of extension services during the financial years (FY) 2014/15 and 2015/16 by Ministry of Finance clearly show that Government of Uganda is not prioritising operationalisation of the single spine agricultural extension system. While the total allocations to the agriculture sector are generally on the rise (from 365.53 billion shillings in FY 2010/11 to 479.96 billion shillings in FY 2015/16), the amount of funds earmarked for provision of extension services have declined significantly since the adoption of the single spine extension system rise (from 142.62 billion shillings in FY 2010/11 to 36.78 billion shillings in FY 2015/16).

 

 

The declining level of financing for agricultural extension is a reflection of little commitment by Government to finance implementation of the single spine reform. Furthermore, a comparison of MAAIF’s 2015/16 – 2019/20 financing plan for implementing the single spine system with the MTEF budget projections by the MoFPED, reveals severe financing gaps. While MAAIF estimated that 2,236.95 billion shillings is required for single spine implementation during the period 2015/16 to 2019/20, MoFPED has only allocated 265.78 billion shillings for the same. Hence, available Medium Term Expenditure Framework budget projections put the financing gap for implementing the single spine system during 2015/16 - 2019/20 period at 88 percent (1,971.17 billion shillings). This means, MAAIF will have only 12 percent of the total funds needed to operationalise the single spine extension reform. Therefore, going by the current budget allocations and projections, MAAIF is unlikely to achieve its targets of implementing the single spine agricultural extension service delivery system.

 

 

With the conspicuous budget constraints, it is doubtful that the single spine system will increase the number of farmers accessing agricultural extension services. Further, it can be deduced from available evidence on budget allocations that the single spine extension system is unlikely to offset the challenges faced by the predecessor systems - Single Unified Public Extension System and NAADS. These included: inadequate funding, which severely curtailed extension activities; low extension worker to farmer ratio; limited reach of farmers; and insignificant positive impacts on incomes and food and nutritional security of farming households.

Hence, for effective and efficient provision of agricultural extension services, Government (MoFPED) needs to purposely increase budget allocations to the agriculture sector and particularly for votes that directly impact on delivery of extension services to farmers. After all, holding other factors constant, increasing funding for provision of extension services to farmers will benefit the majority (over 70%) of Ugandans who essentially derive their livelihood from agriculture. Like the saying goes “Do not milk a cow that you are not feeding”, Government needs to invest more in provision of extension services for sustainable and noble performance of the sector. 

This article was first published in the New Vision of Wednesday May 11, 2016