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28 NEW VISION, Tuesday, June 2, 2015

HARVEST MONEY

NEW VISION, Tuesday, June 2, 2015

PLANTING AND HARVESTING IN THE DARK


By Joshua Kato
This was the fourth year he was engaged
in commercial farming. The rains will
be late, he told one of his workers at
the end of March. Paul Byaruhanga
had listened to a radio announcement,
alerting farmers to get ready for planting.
However, the announcement, made by
the meteorological department, had
claimed that the rains would come soon.
Byaruhaga retired from teaching to
venture into commercial farming on his
10-acre piece of land in Masindi district.
When he started, Byaruhanga was
struck by the lack of proper extension
services.
It will rain soon, but there is little
information flowing down to farmers
about what crops to plant for each
region. Farmers are practising agriculture
through guess work. They are harvesting
miraculously. They are harvesting in the
dark, Byaruhanga laments.
Just after Ugandas independence, the
abalimisa (extension workers) were part
and parcel of the agriculture sector.
They used to visit my fathers farm.
I am a farmer now, but I do not see
them, he says, as he shakes his head
dejectedly.
And yet, according to Byaruhanga, the
Government allocates billions of shillings
every year for extension services.
They talk too much, but there is little
on the ground, he says.
Byaruhanga grows cereals and rears
chicken. He grows oranges too.
I grow improved maize, especially

One of the other challenges that


faced NAADS was that gradually,
the officers,who were supposed to
offer advisory services,turned into
procurement officers since theywere
giving out farm implements

the Longe series. However, while at


the research level this maize produced
five tonnes from an acre, I can only get
two tonnes and that is when I work
hard, he says. He blames the failure of
transferring research to his farm on the
absence of extension services.
Uganda is an agricultural country, and
indeed, over 78% of the populationaccording to the 2014 National Census
are engaged in farming.
To practice good farming, we need
advice from experts. However, for all
my years in farming, I have not been
engaged by any of the government
experts. Instead, I have got knowledge
through trial and error and through
my fellow farming peers, he says. And
yet, when Uganda started practising
modern agriculture, more than 100 years
ago, there was an elaborate agriculture
extension system put in place by the
colonial government.
Evolution of extension services
Hillary Rugema Ssemaana, the coordinator of crop extension at Sasakawa
Global 2000, says agriculture extension
in Uganda has undergone various
transformations since the 1920s.
Between 1920 and 1956, most of the
extension services were carried out
through chiefs. The chiefs would visit
farmers regularly and force them to plant
coffee, even if it meant caning them
(farmers). Because of such strictness,
most of the coffee grown in central
Uganda was named emwanyi za kibooko
(coffee of canes).

Most successful farmers in Uganda invest privately in extension services


From 1956 to 1963, extension services
were largely through progressive
farmers.
The emphasis here concentrated on
technical advice and support in form of
inputs and credit to selected progressive
farmers, Ssemaana says.
From 1964 to 1972, extension services
moved to the methods phase. Training

extension workers (abalimisa) was in


high gear. These were then deployed in
sub-counties across the country.
However, between 1972 and 1980,
there was almost no extension services
in the country, largely because of the
political turmoil in the country.
Reforms in the 1990s

In 1990, a programme funded by the


World Bank to improve extension
services was set up. Among the
recommendations was that the distinct
ministries of agriculture be merged
into the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal
Industry and Fisheries.
One major challenge, however,
was that extension services were still

centralised. When decentralisation took


effect in 1995, extension services were
decentralised alongside other services.
The decentralised method gave more
emphasis on farmer to farmer extension
than before.
However, it lacked proper funding and
policy, since it was largely run by the old
agricultural officers this time under the
districts, the districts were poorly staffed
to effectively handle the programme.
Enter NAADS
Then in 2001, the National Agricultural
Advisory Services (NAADS) was set
up. It, subsequently, took over extension
services. NAADS was projected as the
solution to existing agriculture extension
challenges. Indeed, during the first years
of the programme, extension in many

Understanding the insufficient numbers of extension service personnel in Uganda


Farmers all over the world depend on extension services to carry out their
activities. In Uganda, however, there is a big gap between extension service
providers and farmers. As a result, most farmers operate through trial
and error, hence making losses. Joshua Kato examines the evolution of
extension services in Uganda and why they are invisible.
I receive about eight callers every
day, says Fred Sserufusa, an extension
worker in Nakaseke district. Sserufusa is
a specialist inseminator and the callers
are farmers whose cows are ready for
artificial insemination.
I take an average of three hours
attending to one farmer, Sserufusa says.
Since he has a working schedule of seven
hours per day, it means he can only cater
for three to four farmers each day.
This means that the rest of the farmers
make losses.
There are not enough abalimisa
(extension workers) to reach every
farmer, which is why even the few
available are over-stretched.
Each sub-county should ideally have
more than one inseminator. However,
as a result of deficient numbers, dairy
keepers have to wait for much longer
to have their cows on heat to be
inseminated.
Sometimes, a cow goes on heat and
loses it before the inseminator comes.
It is disappointing, laments Gertrude
Nakibuuka, a zero-grazer in Mukono
district.
Nakibuukas story is similar to that
of many cattle keepers countrywide.
However, it is not only cattle keepers who
are suffering.
Crop growers too do not understand

the numbers of the extension workers.


They have not visited my farm. I only
hear about them, says Paul Ssebirumbi,
a farmer in Nakaseke district.
Numbers not enough
Instead of rising, the numbers of
extension workers has been on a
downward spiral through the years.
The 2014 National Development Plan
reported only 14% of farmers as saying
they had been visited by an extension
worker in the previous 12 months. It left
an 86% unattended to. Comparatively,
in 2000, at least 29% farmers reported
being visited by an extension worker.
Agnes Kirabo of the Food Rights
Alliance says the findings are not
surprising, given the fact that there is
a big staffing gap at the agriculture
ministry.
For example, only 41% of the ministrys
staff establishment has been filled. The
gap grows to 76% at the district level and
to 91% at the sub-county level. Most of
the unfilled positions are for extension
workers.
At the peak of the NAADS operations,
there were on average 10 extension
workers per district. Since Uganda has
112 districts, it means that there were
less than 1,200 extension workers in the
country of a farming household put by

the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics


(UBOS) at over five million. This makes it
a ratio of around one extension worker to
4,100 farming households.
In the set-up, every district had a
NAADS co-ordinator, who was supposed
to be supported by sub-county coordinators. If the extension worker
worked for 365 days a year, meeting
an average of three farmers per day, a
co-ordinator will meet slightly more than
1,000 each year. This means that for him
to meet all the 4,100 farmers, it will take
him at least four years. And yet, a farmer
needs an extension worker at least three
times per planting season, which makes
six times a year since there are two major
seasons in Uganda. For animal keepers,
an extension worker must visit a farmer
every time an animal is sick or requires
insemination.
Take the example of a district like
Masindi, with a farming household
population of about 35,000. It would
take the extension workers six years
to effectively visit each of the farming
households.
Numbers insufficient in livestock
Until the mid 1970s, veterinary extension
services were entirely ran by the
Government. However, the Government
of the day then divested itself of the role

Livestock keepers lack access to veterinary services


of veterinary drug supply, dispensing
and administration, only retaining the
role of providing veterinary extension
services.
After 1989, the agriculture ministry
further divested itself of clinical
veterinary services and, to a certain
extent, veterinary extension, passing on
the responsibility to the private sector.
With the coming of NAADS, came
more ambiguity for veterinary officers at
district levels.
Under NAADS, the private sector was
responsible for delivery of veterinary
extension services, while the public
sector pays for the service.
However, while such a move was
intended to strengthen extension
services, the programme was dependent
on farmers in districts, selecting priority
areas to be supported by NAADS.
According to the format, if a district
did not select livestock as one of the

enterprises, then the cattle keepers


in that district were not catered for by
the government veterinarian. Instead,
they had to seek the services of private
veterinarians.
The privatisation of clinical and
extension veterinary support services in
Uganda left a vacuum, which the private
sector has found difficult to fill over the
years, a report by SNV says. The report,
also supported by the Dairy MultiSector Stakeholder Platform, intended
to highlight the challenges that faced
the veterinary extension services in the
country.
In many districts, the ratio of veterinary
officers per sub-county ranges from 1:1
to 1:8, which places are big strain on
the officers. Additionally, the average
number of cattle-keeping households per
veterinary officer stands at around 5,296.
According to the UBOS 2008 Livestock
census, Masindi with 12,140 homesteads

had a total of 213,402 cattle, 258,366


goats and over 8,000 pigs. It had eight
veterinary officers, three of them under
the local government, two private and
three under NAADS. Mbarara, with
16,570 cattle keeping homesteads
had 149,992 cattle, 199,042 goats and
nine veterinary officers. If each of the
veterinary officers visited two farmers per
day, it would take at least three years to
reach all homesteads.
In Kotido district, which has one of the
largest number of livestock, there was
only one veterinary officer to take care
of 284,122 cattle and 555,180 goats.
If the single extension work visits two
homesteads per day in Kotido, he may
take 10 years to reach each of them.
Some inseminators are exploiting us
because there is no government help,
laments Deogratious Kamugungunu, a
cattle keeper in Kiruhura district.
Ideally, according to a private
inseminator, a unit of ordinary semen
enough for one cow should cost about
sh50,000, inclusive of transport for the
inseminator.
However, because of the thin numbers
on the ground, some inseminators move
longer distances to reach their clients,
hence charging more.
When it comes to sexed semen, whose
sex is pre-determined, the charges are
higher. In the Netherlands, every dairy
farmer has access to sexed semen at just
16 euros or sh50,000. In Uganda, private
veterinary officers sell the same at over
sh250,000!
Of course, when somebody calls me
to inseminate his cow, I put in the cost
of transport and the days I will spend
there, says Peter Lugolobi, who works
with Kasirivu Vet Drug Shop in Gayaza,
Wakiso district.

areas of the country rose from around


10% to 30%. Demonstration farms were
set up and officers were common across
villages.
Other than the officers at the district
and sub-county levels, selected farmers
in each parish were supposed to operate
as peer trainers using model farms set
up under the NAADS programme. But
then, a few years into the programme,
things started failing apart.
There are many issues that
affected the system. One of them is
a misunderstanding of the role and
objectives of the organisation, says
Dr. Samuel Mugasi, the executive
director.
One of the biggest misunderstandings
was that NAADS was supposed to
give farm inputs to farmers, and yet,

the initial mandate was only to set up


demonstration farms on individuals
ones.
So, those who were not given the
demonstration farms started labelling
the programme a failure. Then the other
problem involved politicians from a
given area.
They wanted to use the system
for their personal electoral benefits.
When the coordinator failed to meet
the political demands, the project was
labelled a failure in the area, says a
former district NAADS coordinator.
One of the other challenges that faced
NAADS was that gradually, the officers,
who were supposed to offer advisory
personnel, turned into procurement
officers since they were giving out farm
implements. This left the advisory bit
empty.
Various reviews of the programme
culminated into the re-orientation of
the programme in 2013, under which
it was reinforced with Uganda Peoples
Defence Forces (UPDF) officers, under
the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC)
programme. Most of the NAADS
secretariat departments were disbanded
and local co-ordinators suspended.
The Government is now going back to
the single-spine system, similar to the
one that existed before the advent of
NAADS. Implementation of the system
will be gradual because of contractual
issues with the current NAADS staff.
It will only become fully operational
after completing of the ongoing
recruitment process.

WAY FORWARD
Massive recruitment is the first obvious
remedy, but then the process is so slow
that sick cows cannot wait for it.
Many people say, efforts must also be
put in training the farmers to handle
basic livestock challenges.
NAADS executive director Dr.
Samuel Mugasi says to reach a basic
optimum level, every district should
have at least 24 regular field extension
workers. With 112 districts, it means
that the country would have about
2,688 field extension workers. Since
a district has got an average six subcounties. This means each sub-county
should have at least four extension
workers, he says.
However, it should not just stop at
recruitment. The workers must be
facilitated to carry out their work.
Under the old system, there was
supposedly a vehicle for the district
NAADS coordinator and a motor
cycle for the sub-county NAADS
coordinator. The vehicles were mainly
double cabin pick-up trucks worth
about sh130m or Honda off-road bikes
worth about sh10m each.
However, you realised that the
vehicle was used by other top officers
at the district, including the chief
administrative officer (CAO) and the
LC5 chairman, says a former district
coordinator. In fact, when he refused to
hand over the vehicle to the chairman
and CAO, his job was threatened.
It is one of the reasons I was forced
to leave, he says.

This means that the recruitment must


go with enough transport facilitation.
Field extension workers earn an
average sh350,000 per month on top
of other allowances, which again is not
motivation enough.
Then there is also the issue of
supervision.
In Masindi, the district vicechairman, Melchiedes Kanaginagi,
who is also a commercial farmer,
complained about the failure of even
the few extension workers around to
go to the field.
They just sit in their offices or they
do not even turn up to work at all, he
says.
Under new extension services,
therefore, agriculture ministry must
clearly carry out her role of supervisor.
In some countries, extension services
only improved after training turned to
the farmers themselves.
Deliberate efforts should be made
to impart skills in livestock husbandry
practices to livestock farmers, the
SNV report says. This is in other words
referred to as where there is no vet.
In Ethiopia, a country with one of
the best extension worker per farming
household ratio, a deliberate move was
made by the government to massively
train farmers in every farming area.
As a result, between 2000 and 2008,
the number of extension workers in
the field grew from 15,000 to 45,000.
But overall, at least 80,000 farmers
turned extension workers were trained.

53

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This story was done with support from the African


Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)
Next story, how peer to peer extension services are
bridging the gap

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