AGRIBUSINESS

Agriculture as a vehicle of Uganda’s Economic Transformation Journey

Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, employing 70% of the population, and contributing half of Uganda’s export earnings and a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, employing 70% of the population, and contributing half of Uganda’s export earnings and a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Soon after Hon. Matia Kasaija read our country’s 2017/18 budget, President Museveni declared: “What I will do is to continue working towards lowering interest rates for the manufacturers and the farmers.”

Doubtless, the most prosperous economies are those that have a large industrial base and have fully embraced the fourth Industrial Revolution – 4IR.

4IR presents opportunities in the field of cyber security, and machine learning. It presents opportunities for increased efficiency in enterprises such as the Parish Development Model (PDM), Emyooga and even the push by Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to attract industrialists from beyond our borders to set up in any of our industrial parks.

Sadly, many of our young people, including those that make investment decisions in our banks, look at agriculture as a hopeless sector. I will therefore make a case for agriculture as the best vehicle of our continuous march towards a “modern, integrated and self sustaining” economy.

Our Pearl of a country is blessed with fertile agricultural land, up to 80% of our 241,038 km2,with a potential to feed 200 million people. Sadly only, 35% of this land is being cultivated.

The crisis between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) now being tussled out in Ukraine has brought to the fore the long hidden fact that most of the countries of our world are unable to produce enough food for their populations.

This affirms president Museveni’s singular insistence on promoting modern agriculture, either through aggressive intensive agriculture – the 4 acre model – or through extensive agriculture such as ranching.
Because we must all eat to live, agriculture is a unique investment sector. It provides opportunities across a wide swath including but not limited to production, input supply, value addition processing, standards compliance and export as well as in post harvest handling.

These opportunities are what have caused president Museveni to work towards reforming the coffee sector such that Uganda earns much more than the USD900m we currently earn. This figure pales in comparison to the USD 460bn global coffee industry.

Opportunities also abound in the full processing of maize grain, tea, bamboo, millet, sorghum, poultry, piggery, grazing of cattle, goats and sheep.

Aside from diseases, one of the biggest challenges to grazing of animals has been the laborious process of monitoring and supervision of large herds. Thankfully, with support from the Ministry of Information, Communication technologies and National Guidance, a group of ICT innovators have rolled out a digital monitoring solution called LivestockFarm-Lite and another called Jaguza Livestock.

The ministry has also supported the development and roll out of other farmer based application systems – that are easy to use by farmers – to help connect farmers to financiers. Some of these include eLunda and Patasente.

Taken as a whole, the interventions in our agricultural sector beyond the Ministry of Agriculture and including efforts by other government entities such as the Ministry of ICT &NG, Uganda Investment Authority and championed by H.E. President Museveni make the upcoming Patriotism for Youth and Investment Symposium a most welcome one.

The symposium theme – Patriotism for Socio-economic Transformation – is apt because it speaks to the need for our young populace not to view Patriotism as a cliche or as a passing fard but rather as a sine qua non for meaningful economic participation.

Yes, the cost of money might be unbearably high BUT as he promised in 2017, president Museveni and the government he leads are actively refinancing the Uganda Development Bank to support agricultural and other industry. Those 39% of our population still trapped in the subsistence sector are being brought into the money economy through the rubric of Parish Development Model(PDM).

If well received by the Youth and managed prudently, PDM will quickly complete our move into the higher incomes of per capita income.

The writer is a student of Musevenomics, a member of Campfire Ideological Study group and works with Ministry of ICT & NG
On Twitter: @BesiAndrew

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