GULU – Hundreds of cooperative farmers in Gulu district have lost millions of shillings to fake agricultural deals in the Agricultural Cluster Development Project (ACDP).
ACDP is a partner project of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and World Bank.
The project was rolled out in the country in 2017 to raise farm productivity, support value addition, widen market accessibility and capacity building for farmers.
The government mapped out 57 implementing districts in the geographic cluster with each cluster having a minimum of 5 districts and 150 million dollars was allocated for the project.
The 2020 report from Ministry of Agriculture indicates that up to shs 21.7 billion has so far been disbursed to support 111 farmer organizations in the 24 pilot districts.
The districts include Amuru from Acholi Sub Region, Iganga from Central, Nebbi from West Nile Sub Region, Kalungu and Ntugamo from Western Uganda.
Gulu district among the implementing districts was aligned in cluster 6 with Oyam, Kole, Lira, Nwoya, Amuru and Apac to focus on maize, bean and Robusta coffee as enterprise crop selection.
In the arrangement, a beneficiary of the project is expected to meet 33% of project cost as the government provides 67% of services through an electronic voucher system.
However, whereas the project was designed within the National Development Plan III on poverty eradication; hundreds of farmers have lost millions of shillings to the project in Gulu district.
Moses Omony, the Chairperson Tidi Mamyero Farmers’ Cooperative in Bungatira Sub County alleged that the district has collected over shs 148 million from the different farmers but failed to provide the services.
Omony explained that each of the members was to get seeds, fertilizers, tents and other farm inputs in 2020, which have never been delivered as the district failed to account for the money collected.
Terencio Ocitti, a member of Pur Ber Cooperative Society, says he had paid Shs 148,500 for the fertilizers, seeds and tent but received none of the items for more than a year now.
“I have planted four hectares of beans without fertilizers and I can’t believe that the government can defraud us that way,” Ocitti told theCooperator in a recent interview.
Agnes Akwero, another farmer from Lawiyadul has expressed disappointment with the District Agricultural Department for failing the project whose objectives she says were beneficial.
Geoffrey Anywar, the Gulu District Agricultural Engineer distanced himself from the mess and blamed it on the project facilitators, whom he says were to identify the beneficiaries.
He disclosed that the lead project coordinator Simon Ocaka Lamex breached the project guidelines and collected an unspecified amount from the farmers and disappeared.
According to him, each of the farmers should have opened an account where a secret pin would be provided to deposit the money and then access the inputs from the government.
“The farmers didn’t follow the guidelines and opted for short cuts which we can’t tell how much money they have collected and lost to the facilitators,” Anywar said.
When summoned for three consecutive crisis meetings, Lamex admitted to collecting the money but asked the district to grant him time to look for the money and refund it.
The accused did not even disclose to the district officials on the number of the farmers he had reached out to and collected money from.
The district had set out a plan to auction his piece of land to recover the money within a period of two weeks as investigations into the number of the beneficiaries defrauded expanded.
Meanwhile, Christopher Opiyo Atekere, the Gulu district chairman similarly noted that the district has failed to access the password through which the farmers were registered.
According to the Agricultural Engineer, the district was to register about 5,000 farmers for the project while the paperwork is showing over 1,000 farmers have already been registered.
The Public Relations Manager for Ministry Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Charlotte Kemigyisha says the ministry is already following up on the irregularities in the project.
“We have been informed about the project and we shall be in the district soon to follow up on the allegations,” Kemigyisha disclosed to theCooperator.
The 4 year-project was scheduled to end in March last year with a total of 193 farmers organizations targeted to benefit but it was extended by one year following Covid-19 pandemic.
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