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Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja

Covid-19 disrupts agricultural production in Uganda, but Govt optimistic on sector growth

According to the ministry of agriculture, input dealers reported a reduction in sales by more than 40% while medium to large-scale producers and food processing companies were challenged with limited access to labour. 
posted onOctober 21, 2020
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Agricultural production in Uganda has been damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has interrupted the supply chain and destabilized labor access.

According to the ministry of agriculture, input dealers reported a reduction in sales by more than 40% while medium to large-scale producers and food processing companies were challenged with limited access to labor. 

The ministry says the demand for high-value and nutritious commodities, such as eggs, vegetables and fruits went down due to reduced purchasing power, raising issues of nutrition deficiencies. 

“The Covid-19 and the associated control measures presented a wide range of challenges on agriculture and food systems. The widespread disruptions to agricultural production and market access resulted in distortions in agricultural supply chains and reduced farmers’ incomes,” Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, said Monday at the opening of the Agriculture Performance Review for Financial Year 2019/20.

“Measures were implemented at scale during the peak of the planting season A, while the country was still grappling with the threats of desert locust invasion and raising water levels. Smallholder farmers in most parts of the country were unable to access planting and stocking materials due to reduced economic and physical access.”

However, the ministry is counting on its long term initiatives like the agro-industrialization programme to accelerate growth in the sector.

In line with the NRM Manifesto, the Ministry has committed itself to address the issues that among others include mobilizing and supporting small scale farmers along the four-acre model concept, increasing exports of specific commodities, supporting individuals and companies involved with seed production, planting and breeding materials, promoting the use of fertilizers and appropriate irrigation technology to beat climate change challenges.

Other commitments are on mechanization, investments in research and pest/disease control, regulation and surveillance, value addition and revival of the fish industry.

For instance, with the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the ministry is scaling the Farmer Field Schools (FFS) methodology in Uganda to provide vital agricultural skills, knowledge, and information to rural communities in disadvantaged regions of Uganda.

The duo recently announced the launch of the second round of the Youth Inspiring Youth in Agriculture Initiative (YIYA), a nation-wide competition aimed at promoting youth employment in the agricultural sector by fostering role models of youth agripreneurs.

The program was introduced in 2017 and in the first round, 25 best youth agripreneurs were selected and awarded.

The award package included cash support and opportunities to attend technical training, exhibitions of agricultural products, and policy dialogues related to youth employment in agriculture.

In the second round, the National Technical Coordination Platform has invited youth aged 18-35 years and 270 youth agriprenuers (2 per district) will be selected, announced and awarded as youth agriprenuers at district and regional levels.

The 270 youth agriprenuers will be subjected to further screening to select 135 district youth champions nationwide ensuring a gender balance of 68 female and 67 male youth.

From 135 district youth champions, 35 national youth champions will then be selected.

All the 270-district young agriprenuers will be documented, recognized as national young agriprenuers and provided opportunities to engage in peer-to-peer support activities with other youth, according to the ministry.

The final 35 national and 135 district champions will get an award package that will include: opportunity to attend a week of technical training at the NFLC training center, as well as the opportunity to participate in national exhibitions of agricultural products, and policy dialogues related to youth employment in agriculture. In addition to the training at the NFLC training centre, the 35 national champions will also benefit from other national and international trainings and policy dialogues.

Four NARO research institutes have been supported by FAO to enhance climate change mitigation and adaption capacity to deal with climate change-related challenges.

Climate change issues have also been integrated into the National Development Plan. Under the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP), which is being implemented in 57 districts, the ministry secured a commitment of $150 million from the World Bank to support the intensification of on-farm production through the provision of subsidized inputs using electronic voucher (e-voucher) system and improve value addition and market access through the provision of matching grants for post-harvest and value addition facilities and also fixing road chokes.

Farmers are given matching grants of up to $75,000 to support 67% of required investments in acquiring postharvest and value addition infrastructure.

It is important to note that close to 69% of Uganda households are still involved in subsistence farming. 

“Agriculture, therefore, deserves special attention within a broader approach to expand production capacity for sustainable development, poverty reduction and building resilience,” the minister said.

A Cost of Hunger in Africa study by the African Union in 2013 indicated that up to 5% of the annual GDP in Uganda is lost due to malnutrition.

Stunting, an indicator of chronic undernutrition is still moderately high at 29% in children under 5 years of age, while anaemia is a serious public health concern affecting 53% of children and 32% of women of reproductive age.

“Undernutrition is, therefore, widespread with 36 percent of the children chronically undernourished or stunted. This cannot be allowed to continue,” the minister said.

Uganda has the potential to become the food basket for sub-Saharan Africa. But this opportunity is still far from being actualized.

Agriculture, comprising the crop, fisheries and livestock -- is neither efficient as desired nor resilient and is vulnerable to climate shocks and disasters.

Low production and productivity is directly linked to access to quality inputs, resources for women and youth across the value chains, financial services, extension services, market information and markets among others.

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