The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Frank Tumwebaze on Tuesday officiated the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Bungokho Agricultural Mechanization Centre, which will serve farmers in Elgon region.
According to the minister, the centre will contain a workshop for mechanization equipment (e.g., tractors, bulldozers, drillers, generators, oil, hydraulics), a training facility and an assembly yard.
In 2020, the government announced plans to erect agricultural mechanization centres across the country and Tumwebaze says they are looking at “at least 18 zones of Uganda”.
“Government is working with development partners to establish these regional mechanization centers with the purpose of supporting farmers to access basic skills in agricultural mechanization alongside being centers where farmers can hire agricultural machinery such as tractors at subsidized prices,” Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, Tumwebaze’s predecessor, said last year.
Three are already operational, two zonal centers in Dokolo and Mpigi districts and the national one in Wakiso.
Agriculture is one of the five strategic sectors that was identified by the National Development Plan (NDP II) to help transform Uganda’s economy from low to middle-income status. The sector employs about 72% of the total labor force.
The government says since embarking on mechanized agriculture, Uganda’s exports increased from $1.326 billion in 2015/16 to $1.585 billion in 2018/19.
“In other words, the increased access to water for agriculture production by farmers has resulted in increased yield and production in the irrigated areas,” reads a statement on MAAIF’s website.
“Much of this increase in exports is attributed to the fast-growing horticulture sub-sector, where irrigation has helped farmers grow crops all year round regardless of the weather patterns.”
On that background, President Museveni last year announced that the government would dole out Shs60 billion to farmer organizations across the country so that they can start using improved methods of farming.
“This project is aimed at reminding farmers that agriculture is a business and they should earn from it, and it is just the beginning, we are going to do more for the farmers,” Museveni said while launching the initiative at Namalere Agricultural Referral Mechanization center in Wakiso District.
The project is part of the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP), which is being implemented in 57 districts grouped in 12 geographical clusters, with support from the World Bank, which has invested in $ 150 million.
Farmers that benefit are those involved in growing and trading in five commodities, namely: maize, beans, cassava, rice and coffee.
ACDP is designed to support the intensification of on-farm production through provision of subsidized inputs using an electronic voucher (e-voucher) system and improve value addition and market access through provision of matching grants for post-harvest and value addition facilities and also fixing road chokes. It is also to help to strengthen policy and regulatory framework in input quality assurance.