In a bid to boost productivity in the agricultural sector through mechanization, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) recently supplied at least two tractors to each district across the country.
114 districts benefited from the programme, with the tractors being given to farmer groups through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS).
However, several beneficiary farmer groups are finding it difficult to maintain these tractors, saying they break down frequently and have become more of a liability than an asset.
In Kabarole district, Tooro Dairy Cooperative Society Limited and M9 Group Limited received tractors from MAAIF to help farmers improve on production.
The Chairperson board Tooro Dairy Cooperative Society Limited Edward Basaliza says their tractor breaks down often, specifically the arm lift which he says is small.
“The metals are of cast iron so they keep breaking all the time putting the expenditure way too high on the tractor. The maximum acreage it can plough per day are six only and it has a radiator that heats up after ploughing just four acres in hot areas,” he says.
He says the tractor would be capable of generating money over time if its maintenance costs were not so high. He says they have now replaced some of the missing metal parts though they are also not original.
“We are prioritizing durability over income for proper maintenance,” Basaliza says.
The story is not different with Kyegegwa Fruit Farmers Association (KFFA) where the Chairperson Emmanuel Mutungi says he has lost count of the number of times they have had to repair their tractor.
Mutungi puts the frequent breakdown of the tractor down to the “hard soils” in the region.
“The tractor itself is hard and it is working but the ploughs are soft and yet much of our land is virgin and it needs hard metal ploughs which don’t break so easily,” he says.
He however says using a tractor makes work easier and increases yields because it helps the farmers with good methods of farming, unlike using hoes.
Joshua Mbabazi, a member of Bunyangabu Revolutionary Farmers Group says they too have been tussling with repairing the tractor which breaks down repeatedly.
He says each beneficiary group contributed 20 percent of the cost of purchasing the tractors as a way of enforcing ownership and proper management.
“We didn’t pay the money in cash but the district production department assessed our financial accounts to ensure that we had the 20 percent which would be used in maintenance of the tractors that we received,” Mbabazi says.
He says farmers who are not affiliated to any farmer organization hire the tractors at a cost set by the beneficiary farmer organization.
The Kabarole District Production Officer, Dr. Salvatore Abigaba, says mechanizing agriculture is the way to go and these tractors are helping farmers by easing their work.
He however says he has received complaints from the farmer groups that got tractors that the ploughs are very weak because they are made of cast-iron instead of steel, which causes them to break down time and again.
He advises the affected farmer groups to log in a formal complaint so that the suppliers can fix the problem before the guarantee expires.
The farmer groups told theCooperator that they charge members between Shs 80,000 and 120,000 for ploughing an acre of virgin land, while non-members pay Shs 160,000 to 200,000 depending on the distance to the farm.
Despite all the above challenges, the farmer groups confessed that the tractors have helped them increase their production.
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