The Government of Uganda has been urged to find money to facilitate agricultural extension services in the country for the FY 2023/2024. This comes after an Economic Policy Research Centre analysis of the financial year 2023/24 budget showed that there was no money allocated for non-wage operations for extension services at the local government.
At a public dialogue held on July 13, 2023, in Kampala, where EPRC disseminated the report titled Assessment of the FY 2023/24 agro-industrialisation programme budget towards provision of agricultural extension in Uganda, participants indicated it would be too little too late to wait for the next budget year for the allocation to happen.
The EPRC report, presented by research fellow Dr. Brian Sserunjogi, showed that while the wage component increased two-fold from Shs 77bn in 2020/21 to Shs 142bn in 2023/24, it was meant for salaries for the increased number of extension workers that had been recruited in 2015/16.
“The drastic growth of the wage component has not been matched with the provision of the non-agricultural extension operations grant to facilitate provision of extension services,” it says in part. “The current budget cut for non-wage operational grant if not corrected shall render the recently recruited agricultural extension staff at the local government level redundant.”
Commissioner of extension services and skilling at Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Henry Opolot said: “If we don’t get back to support agriculture in terms of funding today, we may meet here again [in] ten years to discuss why there are challenges in agriculture extension.”
He added that there were other reforms needed to strengthen farmers’ ability to benefit from the sector.
“With the current set up if we still have very weak farmer organisations, as a means of reaching out quickly and help farmers to access markets and have ability to benefit from their agriculture, however much the extension worker talks, the farmer will not progress.”
He added: “If you do not have resources for affording farmers to access the technologies they require, the extension message alone is not adequate. These things need to be put in place even when extension is key.”
Mr. Richard Rwabuhinga, the chairperson of Kabarole district, appealed to government to “allocate funds as a matter of urgence to enable the extension staff to move out and do the work.”
Ms. Agnes Kirabo, the Food Rights Alliance (FRA) executive director, said Uganda was losing much for not investing in extension services. She said, “our agriculture is being questioned throughout the entire value chain. Somebody wakes up and says our maize cannot pass here because it has aflatoxins, and we cannot confidently respond. Somebody rejects our eggs. Can you imagine?”
Recently, South Sudan rejected Ugandan maize, claiming it was not safe for consumption. Uganda has also had issue with other exports including milk and eggs to Kenya.
Mr. Lawrence Kasenge, an economist at Ministry of Finance who represented the Secretary to the Treasury, noted the significance of extension services and acknowledged that the government was aware of the need for more resources to fund extension services.
The PSST informed participants that government has assigned the Auditor General to undertake an audit of manpower gaps existing in all ministries and agencies and Local Government to mobilise resources for agriculture extension services.