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Script 83.5

Notes to broadcasters

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When a large percentage of a nation’s population is employed in agriculture, development practitioners often argue that this is a sign of underdevelopment. As a result, government programmes have focused on reducing the number of people employed on the farm by encouraging investment in other sectors of the economy, such as the services sector.

In Uganda, the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product has been declining, and development practitioners have been patting themselves on the back for this downward trend. Currently, agriculture contributes 31.9 percent of Uganda’s GDP, down from 39.9 percent 5 years ago. But 77% of the active labour force in rural areas is still employed in agriculture. This shows how critical agriculture is for poverty reduction and rural development in Uganda.

A project called Seeing the difference has been initiated by the Uganda National Farmers Federation. The project is trying to give farmers a boost, so that the job of being a farmer can compete with jobs available in other sectors. The principle of the project is that farming will be able to compete with other sectors if better farming methods are used, if there is better access to markets, and production is targeted to markets.

What is the situation in your area? Are there similar projects? Do farmers in your listening audience think that farming is a good profession? Are young people in your area turning to other kinds of work? You might want to talk to listeners and researchers in your listening area about these questions. How could farming be made more attractive to both young and older people? These questions are critical to the sustainability of rural communities. You may want to conduct a round-table discussion between people with different views on this subject.

Script

HOST:
In Uganda, farming employs more than 3 of every 4 persons aged 10 years and older. Of the more than five million households in Uganda, 75 percent are engaged in agriculture and 68 percent derive their livelihoods from subsistence agriculture.

Though the contribution of the agricultural sector to Uganda’s gross domestic product is lessening somewhat because of fast growth in the service sector, agriculture remains important, because most Ugandans are employed in agriculture.

Surprisingly, even some who work as agriculturists are not aware that they are employed or that they matter to the well-being of Ugandan economy. They live in very difficult conditions and spend hours in the field every day. Yet the amount they receive for their labour is disproportionately small, compared to the amount of work they carry out.

On today’s Farming World, we present a day in the life of a subsistence farmer. Later on in the show, we will share with you how a farmer’s organization – the Uganda National Farmers Federation – has teamed up with other organizations to put a smile on the face of some farmers.

Cock crows. Fade under narration.

HOST:
John Okurapa is an early riser. At 54 years old, his daily routine is familiar. The crows of the cock that his forefathers used to keep time also remind him that another day of work has arrived.

JOHN OKURAPA:
By 5:00 in the morning I am awake, because I have to walk quite a distance to my garden, and I have to arrive there early.

Sounds of farming instruments such as a hoe and/or a panga being prepared for work.

HOST:
Okurapa used to work at a government department before he was laid off. He then returned to his native village in Kumi district to do the job of his forefathers. He would love to get another job, but he is worried he may never find one because he has almost reached retirement age.

JOHN OKURAPA:
I used to work in an office. It was a clean job; you would just sit in an office. But look now! I have to wake up early to go to the field, and I work several months to earn very little. You cannot even be sure that you will earn anything, because your income is based on weather conditions – you only earn money if the weather is good. Even the teachers we used to despise are doing much better than we are now.

HOST:
John Okurapa’s story represents thousands of other Ugandan farmers who are living in miserable conditions, though they are the backbone of Uganda’s economy.

But farmers! If you are in John Okurapa’s situation, mourn no more. The Uganda National Farmers Federation has teamed up with a host of other organizations in a project aimed at making farming an enviable job. Under the Seeing the difference project, funded by several international donors, farmers have been taught how to use their small plots of land to realize better yields. The results have been encouraging. So far the project has been implemented in the Ugandan districts of Arua, Kumi, and Soroti, but will spread to other districts as funds allow.

I spoke to Richard Mindiriya, one of the beneficiaries of the project. (Pause) So you are one of the beneficiaries of the Seeing the difference project. Can you tell me what differences you have seen?

MINDIRIYA:
I am a rice grower. Before I joined the program, I would get 1500 kilograms of rice per acre, but after joining the project I was able to double my yields.

HOST:
What magic did they give you?

MINDIRIYA:
They taught us to use fertilizers, and they equipped us with appropriate technologies to scare away the birds. I was then able to get 3000 kilograms of rice from my one acre of land.

HOST:
Joining me in the studio to discuss the Seeing the difference project is Mr. Augustine Mwendya, the executive secretary of the Uganda National Farmers Federation, and Mr. Benjamin Anker, the Second Secretary for Political, Economic and Cultural Affairs at the Netherlands Embassy in Kampala. Welcome to the program. I will start with you, Augustine Mwendya. What is this Seeing the difference project all about?

MWENDYA:
This project is about improving farm household incomes in the West Nile, Lango and Teso farming areas.

HOST:
Why did you choose these regions in particular, when farmers across the country are in need?

MWENDYA:
We chose these regions because they are just recovering from a bitter conflict, and the farmers in these areas are in worse condition than farmers elsewhere.

HOST:
And you, Mr. Benjamin Anker. How do you fit into the project?

BENJAMIN:
We at the Netherlands Embassy were approached by the Uganda National Farmers Federation to help fund the project. We were convinced that it was the kind of intervention that would lift the livelihoods of Ugandan farmers. The Netherlands is also a farming nation, and we have been able to use better farming methods to get better yields, even with our small area of farmland.

HOST:
Back to you, Augustine Mwendya. What did you do exactly in this Seeing the difference project?

MWENDYA:
We provided the farmers with improved seeds, we gave them access to financial services, and we gave the farmers appropriate technology. For example, we taught rice farmers to use the black shiny thread in cassette tapes to scare birds away from their fields. Farmers were also linked to the market, because we realized that lack of access to the market is a strong hindrance to agriculture development.

HOST:
How did you link the farmers to the market?

MWENDYA:
We worked with corporations such as Olam, Dunavant, Mukwano and Outspan. They assured us that they would buy our produce – and they have indeed been buying our produce!

HOST:
Were there any other components to the project?

MWENDYA:
Yes, we also worked with financial institutions to ensure that they could provide funding to the farmers. Financial institutions in Uganda have been reluctant to give loans to farmers because of risks. According to the Uganda Farmers Federation, the banks involved in the project should now see reason to fund farmers.

HOST:
Benjamin, this seems to be a good initiative. Would you help financially to roll this out to the rest of the country?

BENJAMIN:
We realize it’s a good project. We are of course answerable to the Dutch taxpayer, but I want to assure you that, if the funds are available, we do wish to continue funding the project.

HOST:
And finally to you, Mwendya. Will this project be extended to other Ugandan farmers?

MWENDYA:
I should explain that this is a pilot project in these three regions of the country. The Ugandan Farmers Federation will organize visits by farmers from other regions to learn from their counterparts in the pilot areas. Then, if the farming is as profitable as has been shown in the pilot, there may not be a need for further foreign funding. We are grateful to our funders and to all the farmers who are participating in this project; we believe farming should be considered gainful employment, just like other jobs.

HOST:
(Pause) Dear listener, we must end here for this week, but let’s meet again next week. I am your host, Joshua Kyalimpa, and this has been Farming World. Good evening.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Joshua Kyalimpa, Opsett Media/African Farm Radio Bureau. Reviewed by: John Wamatu, plant breeder, Brotherton Seed Co. Inc., Moses Lake, Washington, USA; Dr. J.G. Mowo, Regional Coordinator of African Highlands Initiative, an ecoregional programme of the CGIAR hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Kampala, Uganda.