By Jane Uwimana
During a recent “Making Finance Work for Africa” conference in Kampala, finance institutions were asked to work together with governments in order to support farmers financially and provide easy access to loans.
Policy makers and farmers highlighted the need for better infrastructure and market policies to support the agriculture business in Uganda and Africa in general.
Gerald Sendawula is one of the big grain farmers in the Ugandan village of Lwamagwa. He borrowed money to finance his operations, but had trouble making repayments when a bumper harvest saw price levels drop.
“Maize was selling only for 30 shillings when we have delivered it all the way from Lwamagwa to grain milling in Jinja,” Sendawula says. “At the end of the day I failed to repay that loan because I took the loan when the cash flow, my projection, was on a hundred shillings per kilo. So here I am ending up having to deliver the maize to grain milling in Jinja and I get only 30 shillings per kilo”.
Warehouses are needed
Farmers like Mr Sendawula say the construction of warehouses would prevent such losses, and that storage should be given priority in the government’s national agricultural support program – NAADS.
“The part of the money which is put under NAADS …should be made available in the grain area so that that money can build the necessary stores and people will be encouraged to produce,” he says. “Because I will know that if at the time of getting the product, harvesting the price are very low I can afford to (NOT) take that low amount but store.”
Government says it works
Speaking on the sidelines of the recent conference, the Ugandan minister of state in charge of investment, Aston Kajara, said the government is working with the private sector to promote commercial agriculture.
“85% of our population depends on agriculture and yet the government has not found the investment to put into that area,” Kajara says. “So what we have done is we’ve been looking for partnerships with banks and partnerships with other stakeholders, partnership with donors to enhance the funding element so that our population, who are very committed farmers at subsistent levels, who don’t have sufficient funds, can benefit.”
Beyond the borders
Looking beyond Uganda’s borders, policymakers say efforts to boost productivity must go hand in hand with improved market access for farmers.
“The challenge is if you have increased production what happens to the markets?” says Boaz Blackie Keizire, an agriculture advisor from the African Union Commission. “We have worked with countries to work on what we call the caterpillar two. Which is on market access and market integration to make sure that whatever is produced has access to the market. We support the member states to develop their country investment plans.”
Food shortages still
Food shortages remain a major concern for much of the population. John Agaba, the head teacher at a boarding school in Uganda’s south-west told The Daily Monitor newspaper that high food prices were making it difficult for the school to feed its students. He said the government should control the exportation of foodstuffs to neighboring countries like Burundi, Southern Sudan and the DR Congo to ensure the domestic market is served first.
Listen to the radio report below: