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Fixing Uganda's Extension System

por Mr. Rwakakamba Morrison

Uganda has only 1600 extension workers mandated to serve 4,000, 000 million farmer households in Uganda giving a ratio of 1: 2500 farmer households.
The rural nature of most farms remains a challenge to graduate and fresh extension workers from college as these fresh professionals often prefer enjoying the trappings of peri-urban life.  
How do we crack this state of affairs? Do we leave solutions to policy makers and technocrats? Do we call for reinstatement and restoration of regional district farm demonstrations and stock farms?
A solution may perhaps lie in a stronger role of the private sector such as engaging in public –private partnerships and embracing technology. There is a pool of Extension Link farmers that were in late 1990’s trained by Uganda National Farmers Federation all over Uganda. Mobile phones technology can be used to complement extension efforts. Could such a model bring down the current expansive farmer-extension worker ratio and abridge the current information gap at the farm level?

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19.11.2012
Final Year Economics Students (group 2)

 

Do we leave solutions to policy makers and technocrats?

No, we should not leave solutions to just policy makers and technocrats. In the context of agriculture, the most important element of any decision-making process is the farmers and smallholders themselves because they are the ones who experience these challenges first hand and may have a better idea of how to tackle and rectify the problem and arrive at a solution. Often times, farmers' voices are not heard because they are left out of discussions and policy formulations that will directly affect them.

19.11.2012
Final Year Economics Students (group 2)

 

Mr. Christopher Mulindwa is spot on about the issue of many farms as a result of college graduates deviating from agriculture in general. Here’s one possible scenario why this is so. When it comes to seeking employment in the agricultural sector, many college graduates and other young people believe that the only job available to them would be that of a primary level farmer with little or no opportunity for promotions. However, this common misconception can be rectified by making agriculture attractive to such persons with the creation of jobs that demand their intellect in the area of much needed research and development in new, innovative and cost effective means of agricultural farming techniques and practices that also pushes for the need for more technology and communication in order to boost production and create bigger markets for their outputs. College graduates can be employed in the agriculture sector as agronomists, advisors, consultants, market analysts, etc. People will move to places where their skills and expertise are demanded. Coupled with attractive remuneration packages as advocated by Miss Elizabeth Asiimwe, more and more college graduates will seek employment in the agri sector.  These qualified persons will bring with them support services for smallholders such as knowledge about agricultural markets for farmers’ produces, price trends, consumer preferences, weather, soil conditions, environment sustainability, technology and financial credits.

Given that most countries of Africa derive their livelihood from the agriculture sector and that there are more young people in Africa below the age of 30 than ever before, government agencies and other multidisciplinary organizations should see this as an opportunity for investing in the youths of Africa through education and training so that they may be gainfully employed in the agriculture sector. Given the example cited by Mr. Morrison of youths NOT shirking agriculture, this in turn may accelerate the reduction of the farm household ratio.

Dickens Ogwang UN, Uganda
08.10.2012
Dickens Ogwang

This ratio is to big and agree to it. One option for improvement is to train many model farmers that other farmers can learn from, The other is by use of Farmer Field School approach introduced by FAO so that farmers are able to learn more on their own once they understand the concept.

Elizabeth Asiimwe Agric. Ext Student, Uganda
07.10.2012
Elizabeth

Hello Morris, it is my wish that this platform yields some results and ideas as far as this issue is concerned. As your research shows, that gap is very  big and I feel that it is high time the training package changes. Much as chosing a place of work is an individual choice, i feel that if a policy on sensitisation for behavioural change is done, maybe these fresh graduates would consider "extending" to the rural areas.

Also, if attractive remuneration packages coupled with working tools were in place,it could also be of help. Morris, an example is of an ext. worker in my rural home district deep in south western Uganda. This young man can trekk over 10kms to do his work because the only motocycle the department had broke down and work had to continue.For sure, there are very few(if any) fresh graduates who would admire him and thus stay glued to the peri-urban life.

On mobile phone technology, i think that would be the most handy and latest innovation in agric extension, However i also think it could work best if intergrated with the existing to contribute in bridging that wide gapbut again, given the adaption rate of most farmers, is it practical and do you think it can work? Over to you people......

Mr. Rwakakamba Morrison Agency for Transformation, Uganda
27.09.2012
Rwakakamba

Thank you Mulindwa for your informative thoughts. I dont know where you are based in Uganda.We have a small -holder farmers dialogue tommorow at Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences -see www.aft-u.org for details. Your perspectives and experiences would enrich strategies to improve agricultural extesion services. I agree with most of your points - but on youth sharking agriculture- the trend might be changing in some areas. I for-example know young people who abandoned jobs as bank tellers in Kampala to take on poultry and are now gainfully supplying supermarkets. I know many young people in Buwate, Kyengera, Mukono and Masindi who are keen on agriculture. The middle class is actually becoming a danger - they are returning to villages to buy out land from the poor - who are now being pushed to small towns (we can return to this in future). But-could this trend be an opportunity to re-energize young and articulate Ugandans into agriculture. Can this group amplify the necessary noise to set the right incentives for the sector? But- Yes this is still a drop in an ocean of farmers with no empowerment to seek, demand and uptake new information in agriculture. There is also another problem of scatered efforts. Can FIT, LAMIS, VARMIS, FARMIS etc work together to placate a response that would reach millions of farmers? Can we also tell the story of those farmers who have succeeded to change attitude of young people towards farming and farming life? Sorry- so many questions! We have to find a spark! Lets keep the conversation leaping skyward.

27.09.2012
Christopher

The biggest problem here is that both parents and government have not trained the young generation to love agriculture. Due to the status of my job, I walk through very many villages a month visiting many farmer groups and speak to as many young people as I can, there are some discoveries;

Agriculture is taken as work for illitrates,failures and very poor people! whenever you talk about agriculture, a young graduate sense trouble! I should not deny this fact, for sure many rural dwellers practicing agriculture are very poor. Many of them are not even able to produce what is enough for their family and others produce on a subsistence level. This is because these farmers have not been empowered to fully exploit their potential, changes in climatic conditions, agriculture mechanisation (Hoe is the only easily acccessible tool), poor farming methods, lack of farmer enterpreneural skills are just some of the challenges.

We are all equally concerned about the development of agriculture in our country so however small an effort may be, it will add value. If have no extension work skills, work hard to organise farmers into groups then consult concerned organisations to give support. Most of these organisations extend services such as training, market information, Credit and savings etc for free.

Forexample, Grameen Foundation extends farmer advisory services using Mobile phone applications. FIT Uganda Ltd,-Agricultural Market Information Services
Localized Agricultural Market Information ( LAMIS)
Value Chain Market Information Services ( VARMIS)
Farm Record Management Services (FARMIS)

PELUM Uganda’s Innovative delivery model of market information services through community Radios. Agri-Hub Uganda, promoting farmer enterpreneurship, Care Uganda-training farmers to save money and provide loans amongst themselves through VSLAs (Village Savings and Loans Association) and many other companies and organisations.

The point of creating demostration farms is very important and simple way to help farmers develop and improve their agricultural activities. Our company Pig Production and Marketing Uganda Limited works directly with farmers having interest or involved in piggery. In our developmental projects, we are working hard to create Pig demostration farms per subcounty to act as training grounds for farmers and other stake holders in the pig value chain.

We should not forget to talk about corruption, a root cause of failure in most bodies created by government to offer extension Services. Informed farmers must work hard to organise themselves and handle such developments independently to prevent losses from corrupt officials.