One of the challenges facing government’s Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) programme is the rejection of input supplies by the intended beneficiaries (farmers).

During the last week of September 2016, the OWC commandant for Kole district received and distributed 80,000 citrus seedlings to sub-counties; however, the target beneficiaries refused to collect these seedlings on the grounds of late delivery.

“We don’t want to waste our energy, resources and time planting these oranges because the dry spell will destroy them all. They should have been brought a little earlier during the onset of the rains,” said one Opio (one of the selected OWC programme beneficiaries).

Rejection of free planting materials happens in many other districts as attempts are being made to implement wealth creation programmes. This is tantamount to wasting of government resources, which in part is attributable to poor planning and lengthy procurement procedures, among others.

Given that the average cost of a citrus seedling is 3,000 shillings, in just this one case of Kole, government lost over Shs 240 million. As long as farmers in Uganda continue to rely on rains, then timely procurement and distribution of planting materials at the onset of rains will remain a prerequisite for the success of any agricultural programme that distributes inputs.

Relatedly, the recent evaluation report by the Operation Wealth Creation, together with the president’s office, shows that the survival rate of 93 million coffee seedlings planted during the first season of 2016 was 42 per cent (only 39 million seedlings survived).

This means that 58 per cent of the planted seedlings (53.94 million seedlings) was lost and calls for replanting. At the current price of Shs 500 per coffee seedling, the reported loss is equivalent to Shs 26.97 billion. 

Basing on the recent pronouncement by the outgoing managing director at Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Mr Henry Ngabirano, the body plans to plant about 300 million seedlings annually. At this unacceptably-low seedling survival rate, government may lose over Shs 87 billion every year.

Is this the way to go?  Can’t we invest this money differently for greater development of the coffee sector?

The high mortality rate of seedlings of whatever kind frustrates farmers and inflicts heavy financial losses on government, which may hinder the realization of Vision 2040. The challenges of seedling rejection and low seedling survival rates can be minimised significantly by practicing climate smart-agriculture (CSA).

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations defines CSA as an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate.

It involves farming using a package of technologies and practices such as conservation agriculture, irrigation, integrated nutrient management and pest and disease control. The use of CSA technologies and practices makes farms resilient to climate change/variability and enhances productivity.

Thus, this is a call to government, development partners and all concerned stakeholders to scale up the use of climate-smart agriculture technologies and practices in planting the agricultural seedlings being supplied under the OWC programme. To a lesser extent, matching the supply of seedlings with the right season would as well limit the chances of drying off. 

Government is already working to ensure adaptation of agriculture to climate change through the ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries and the ministry of water and environment.

However, farmers’ apprehension to plant when the rains are about to stop signifies a lack of knowledge and training on CSA. Scaling up of CSA can be achieved through training and equipping extension workers with proven CSA technologies and practices; financially facilitating extension workers to train farmers and set up CSA learning/demonstration sites; and supporting the development and dissemination of CSA extension messages.
Mildred Barungi is a research fellow at Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC). Ezra Munyambonera is a senior research fellow at EPRC.

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