Experts have proposed that government rethink its investment and approach towards the agricultural sector if Uganda is to realize its economic development plans. They argue that while the majority of Ugandans are still engaged in agriculture, the sector has not produced significant gains to lift this majority from poverty.
The argument was made on Wednesday during the 8th edition of the annual CEO forum held at Kampala Serena Hotel.
Former Agriculture Minister Victoria Sekitoleko who is also a senior agricultural consultant said that government needs to inculcate agriculture in the academic curriculum at lower levels of education. This, she said will solve the skills gaps that still hamper the development of the sector.
“If 70% of your people are in agriculture, that makes you an agriculture country. So, everybody should be educated in agriculture as a major economic activity of Uganda,” Sekitoleko told SoftPower on the sidelines of the forum.
She added; “We should prioritize agriculture in education at all levels and have special programs to skill people for a purpose. We can’t talk about irrigation if we haven’t trained irrigation plumbers, irrigation engineers and geologists”.
On his part, the Deputy Secretary to the Treasury Patrick Ocailap
hinted on the current weather related risks which have created a perennial problem for farmers. He suggested that technocrats leverage the country’s mass water resources to devise alternative ways of irrigation.
“We have been chunking a lot of money into Operation Wealth Creation and other agriculture programs but it isn’t solving the problem of poverty,” Ocailap said in his presentation.
“Uganda has a lot of water bodies. We need to carry out hydraulic studies in order to map water sources which can then be used for solar powered irrigation powers.”
He criticized government for not cracking the whip on those involved in the degradation of the environment which he said could increase the negative effects of drought on agriculture.
It is estimated that 70% of Ugandans are involved in agriculture, but majority of these are into subsistence farming with no modernized methods.
Last year, Uganda’s GDP growth was revised downwards to 3.9% from the earlier projected 5% majorly attributed to a long drought that affected agricultural production. As a result, inflation on food items rose.
URA Commissioner General Doris Akol revealed that agriculture as a sector only contributes 1.3% of the countries taxes. She called for deliberate efforts in order to grow agriculture by increasing its productivity.
Earlier, Jennie Barugh, the Head of DFID in Uganda who delivered a keynote address noted failure to address social issues is increasing the vulnerability for 40% of Ugandans to again fall below the poverty line while 27% are in abject poverty.
She advised that government tackles population growth and youth employment both of which have increased depency and affected GDP growth.