The former Gulu University Vice Chancellor, Professor Jack Nyeko Pen Mogi, has described the poverty in northern Uganda as ‘chronic’ due to bad choice of crops government give to farmers.
Mr. Mogi was making a presentation at the launch of the 12th Uganda Economic Update by World Bank at Gulu Country Dairy Farm in Unyama sub-county, Gulu district mid November.
He stated that bad choices of crops and influence by government for people to grow certain crops like maize, soya beans, and cassava are the reason causing severe poverty in the household level.
Professor opines that because such crops do not have good economic values compared to crops grown in other regions in Uganda.
According to him, several projects worth billion of shillings were implemented in northern Uganda but it’s surprising to witness the current status of household poverty among families especially at the grassroots level.
“We had NUSAF I, NUSAF II, NUREP, NAADS, OWC and now NUSAF III among others but household poverty remains a very big issue in Northern Uganda,” Prof Pen Mogi noted.
He adds that a farmer in central Uganda is able to get Uganda shilling 16 million from an acre of coffee, many times bigger than a farmer in northern Uganda who grows cotton and is likely to get Uganda shilling 1.5 million per acre of land.
And a farmer in the central region growing banana, he reveals can get Uganda shilling 10 million per acre annually compared to a northern region farmer growing rice and able to mint only Uganda shilling 4 million from an acre per year.
“Such regional cropping disparity is the reason why people in the north continue to wallow in severe poverty even when government through its projects like National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Northern Uganda Rehabilitation Project (NUREP), NUSAF among others has changed nothing because farmers are supplied with seeds that has low commercial values,” he added.
Ms. Juliet Auma, a graduate of Agriculture from Gulu University and a proprietor of Gang Pur Farm Investment, in Gulu town, concurred that government has pushed farmers to grow particular crops which have no market values and has changed no livelihood.
“Farmers have been pushed by government to grow particular crops but in the end farmers have no market to sell their products and hence limited change in live,” Ms Auma argued.
Additionally, those farmers in northern Uganda do not know separating between food and cash crop, Auma says, adding that it gets hard to address food security and income.
She suggests that farmers need to approach bulk buyers and exporters to identify crops which are performing well in the international market to avoid wastage of resources and energy in what she termed as “useless production”.
The new World Bank Country manager in Uganda, Mr. Tony Thomson during his tour to assess World Bank funded projects in northern Uganda confirmed that household poverty remains high among families.
He attributed the situation to poor quality of seeds, poor technology employed, limited knowledge among farmers and lack of marketing linkages between the farmers and buyers.
Mr. Thomson also said the long chain of corruption on World Bank funds contributed to the wider gap between the rich and the poor.
Plan to avert the situation
Minister for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries – Vincent Ssempijja assured farmers that government will consider disease/vectors control measures and water project term [irrigation plants] to save loss of crop in the farms due to devastating impact of global warming.
To address the issue of household poverty, Mr. Ssempijja said small scale farmers using rudimentary garden tools like hand-hoes should form groups so that access to farm input which will be supplied by government in the next financial year [2019-2020] aid to uplift their farm output for good yields and maximum harvest.