KAMPALA – The absence of credible data is affecting investment decisions in Uganda’s agriculture sector, according to Humphrey Mutaasa, a senior technical advisor in charge of partnerships and institutional development at the Grain Council of Uganda (GCU).
Mutaasa who was on Wednesday speaking during the launch of an Integrated Grain Handling Project for rural communities in Uganda by Access2innovation told reporters that reliable data is a needed ingredient in any planning.
“If you don’t have data or intelligence, you don’t have evidence and this means you are just guessing in whatever you do. If you don’t have information on where am I supposed to plant, how am I supposed to plant, how many people are involved in the sector, how much arable land the country has, how much grains you produce, how much do you export, and all this information, there is no way you will plan well for the sector,” Mutaasa told reporters.
He added: “This thing of guesswork is affecting us and the sector at large. How do you sit in parliament and in the ministry and you don’t know how many people are in the agriculture sector? Some reports say 80% others say 70% of the population is in agriculture. Which figure should we take? Someone wants to come and invest in the sector but [they] don’t know the soil PH, where arable land is, which grains are grown in which areas, and many other details.”
Although subsistence farming currently dominates agriculture in Uganda, the sector has great potential to drive major economic growth and lift millions of people out of poverty, according to Mutaasa.
He said reliable data in the form of traceable records would help to pull credible investments into the country.
“For example, if I now want to buy maize from Mubende, I can’t tell how many farmers are growing it in Mubende so that I know where to take trucks to buy it. I will just end up driving trucks without having exact information. Which information informs the megre budget that agriculture gets? How come sectors with a few people get more money and agriculture which employs more people gets a small budget? This goes back to lack of reliable data that we can quote to advocate for an increase in the budget for the sector,” Mutaasa said.
“In this sector, we talk about partners but these want information about the sector which we are not providing. These guys have their money and are wishing well for the country. They need evidence. They need data. They need a traceable record, such that when they put their money, then we can track everything. Unfortunately, we have nothing tangible to show of data,” he added.
On his part, Henrik Anker-Ladefoged, the regional director for Access2innovation told reporters that the four-year project seeks to address a raft of challenges facing the agricultural sector in Uganda.
“There are a lot of problems which could be solved quite easily if people and stakeholders got together are focused on them. One of these big problems is good quality products free of aflatoxins. The project will help deal with the problem by supporting farmers in rural areas to have their own drying facilities so their produce can be dried immediately after harvest so there are no aflatoxins,” Henrik said.
“You don’t have to buy the aflatoxin binder or expensive technology to remove aflatoxins in the produce but you can avoid it by drying on-site immediately after harvest. And it’s as simple as that. The only problem is that the farmers in Uganda are very disorganized. They have cooperatives and farmer groups but they’re not organized in a way where it makes it easy for them to raise capital for investment.”
He said there are many setbacks to the agriculture sector that the new program seeks to address.
Anker-Ladefoged said the programme has been designed to address some of the challenges in the grain value chain, targeting farmer yields, post-harvest quality of the grain, and improving livelihoods with access to quality add-value markets.
Under this arrangement, the project will support organised farmers groups, processors, and off-takers and will provide support in areas of supply and installation poor harvest cleaning and drying, whole grain milling, seed cleaning equipment, farmer support training in financial literacy, access to inputs and finance
The programme will support farmer’s organizations with a need for cleaning & drying capacity from 6.5mt to 40mt per day (BM Silo).