With funding obtained from the World Bank, Government of Uganda is poised to extend a grant worth USD 150m for the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) towards providing farmer organizations with Post harvest and value addition equipments.
According to Hon. Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) it is possible for subsistence farmers to successfully undertake commercial farming if given appropriate means and technical support.
“This community investment is meant to support farmers in undertaking bulking, value addition and collective marketing of quality produce for better prices and eventually get better incomes. In the matching grants component, ACDP supports investments of locally-based farmer cooperatives and associations in community-level post-harvest handling, grading, bulking and storage, and processing for value addition,” Ssempijja explained.
The project, which was commissioned by President Museveni on October 10 at Namalere Agricultural Mechanisation Centre, will be implemented in 57 districts grouped into twelve geographical clusters.
Ssempijja revealed that through the ACDP flagship, MAAIF has agreed to extend support to 193 farmer organizations from 47 different projects, with an additional 378 groups approved to benefit from Shs 34.88bn for acquiring and installation of equipment, including millers, generators, seed cleaners, Coffee hullers, Cassava processing equipment and solar dryers to be distributed by the president.
He said that already government, through the project, has invested Shs 21.7bn which has been disbursed to support 111 farmer organizations from 24 pilot districts that initially included Kalungu, Ntungamo, Nebbi, Amuru and Iganga.
Stephen Ojangole, ACDP Deputy Programs Director says that government will enter into a cost-sharing arrangement with farmer groups in accessing improved inputs and post harvest equipment through the project.
He said that in the first cycle, farmers will contribute up to 33% of the required cost, while government meets the 67% balance. By the third cycle, government contribution will stand at 50%.
“We agree with farmers on what they want to do, whether it is to build a store, install a machine or any other equipment. Then we give 67% of that cost to this farmer group and the farmer contributes 33%. That’s why we assess these farmer organizations before they can receive contribution from government. We expect to reach 450,000 farmers across these 57 districts,” Ojangole said.
In the past, critics have observed that government’s move to offer simple inputs has encouraged laziness among farmers. Uzele Muhammad, the Chairperson of West Nile Seed Multiplication Cooperative Society urged government to instead help farmers acquire heavy duty equipment.
“The government must stop offering cheap inputs like hand-held hoes that cannot improve the welfare of farmers but rather undermine efforts to mechanize the agricultural sector. Today, these hand hoes are being delivered by the president; is that really normal? Something you can buy for just Shs 10, 000!” Uzele said.
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