By Justus Kyomuhendo
To begin with I want to thank the former Managing Director Vision Group Robert Kabushenga for the zeal and commitment he exhibited in trying to promote Uganda farmers through the Harvest money expo, best farmer’s competition, among other projects. He is truly a Ugandan who wished to see a change for the best.
The best farmer’s competition project was designed to collect farmers across the country to take part in the competition that was held annually. The winners were sponsored to visit the Netherlands to learn from the Dutch farmers, modern agricultural practices, and generally how they manage to produce so much from such small pieces of land.
Netherlands is one of the most admired countries in the world in terms of how her farmers manage to produce so much from agriculture using fewer resources. Two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources” and with this strategy, nationally, the country has managed to produce such much for both domestic and international market.
Back to my point, when the Ugandan famers visited the Netherlands, upon arrival from the joyful trip, many farmers narrated the beautiful stories of what they learnt from the Dutch and one of the fundamental lessons that I learnt from the stories was that with specialization and passion, agriculture can be the most lucrative of all sectors.
One farmer recounted that, while in the Netherlands, he was amazed by how Dutch farmers devote more time on their farms.
He said that, a Dutch farmer with a dairy farm, his day will start very early in the morning at around 6.30am. Throughout the day, he will be on the farm, feeding, checking for any anomalies or other changes in the animals and so on and so forth.
One thing that caught my attention was that for the milk heifers, farmers played them classical music to enable the cows produce more milk basing on the ‘Moosic Study’ by Researchers from the University of Leicester.
The recounts reveal that throughout the entire day, Dutch farmers are on the farm caring and monitoring. They do not engage in other works such as being employed as an accountant in some NGO, CAO for some local government, head teacher for some school, etc. in order to have quality for the farm and be able to maximize output.
In summary, from the many recounts from the Ugandan farmers, we see that the Dutch farmers have passion and specialization is paramount.
For the case of Uganda, farmers want to work as Community Development Officers (CDOs), Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs), Accountants in some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), teachers, and this hampers agricultural output and quality of out products. When one is employed and at the same manages a farm, the question remains. Who is being cheated? Either, the animals on the farm are being cheated in terms of care or the employer is being cheated, or both are losing.
I have a friend in Mukono district in Central Uganda who has been in the poultry business for about five years now but recently when I visited him, there were fewer birds on what he calls his poultry farm. I asked why the business declined instead of ‘picking’. He revealed to me that he has had a number of challenges not because of only the market conditions but also because he manages an electronics shop away from home. When he compares himself with the friends who took poultry farming as a fulltime job, he finds that his farm is just a mess. The workers do not just do what they are told to do especially with our small enterprises.
Ugandans should learn from our Dutch brothers. Let us specialize and have passion for whatever we are doing. There are several of people in the civil service, politicians in Uganda who have purchased or grabbed square miles of land and pretend to be practicing farming yet they do not even break even. Some use government properties- graders, trucks, fuel farm vehicles with government fuel, et cetera to cover up the costs.
Passion and specialization will boost our agricultural output and improve quality and hence compete internationally.
The writer is an Economist and Statistician