With over 10,400,000 citizens connected to mobile phones in Uganda (according to International Communication Union) over 5,000,000 browsing internet daily and millions tuning into more than 228 fm radio stations broadcasting in local languages – Do we still need the kind of cooperatives that operated in 1970’s and 1980s to connect farmers and small businesses to markets? Calls for revival of Cooperatives are a hot and rehearsed issue, amongst, especially opposition politicians and operatives. Possibly bending a bit to pressure, government rebranded the Ministry to Trade Tourism and Industry to Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives! Alas- this Cooperative narrative needs to be re-imagined in current Uganda. We need to be talking about new ways of organizing and governing markets. If old cooperatives don’t change, what is left of them will soon disappear.
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?
My name is Salomeyesudas and I work as an independent consultant for several organizations in Tamil Nadu, India. Currently I am working on a research paper on public food systems for the Dhan Foundation.
In spite of the many public food distribution systems, India is facing nutritional emergencies and the prevalence of malnutrition remains very high.
One of the reasons is that food schemes are mainly based on the distribution of the energy-rich cereals wheat and rice but do not take the nutritional value of into account.
I would like to explore whether the introduction of different crops such as millets into the distribution system could yield improved nutritional outcomes.
In addition to case studies and example from India, I would be very grateful to receive information on other South Asian countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka.