About half of the 122 million coffee seedlings distributed to farmers countrywide under the government’s flagship Operation Wealth Creation programme have dried up due to scorched farmlands, President Museveni has revealed.
“Unfortunately, I am told that around 40 per cent of the coffee seedlings have dried up because of the beneficiaries not watering them. This is terrible carelessness,” he said at the 54th Independence celebrations in Luuka district yesterday.
Mr Museveni’s lamentations foretell the irony of a country generating most of its wealth and food through a nature-dependent agriculture, but one he eyes to transform into a middle-income status within the next four years.
The inability to harvest rain or tap Lake Victoria or River Nile waters to soak the soils for farming highlight a deficiency in technology and irrigation policy by the ministry of Agriculture, which the President yesterday challenged to do more for higher farm yields and food security.
In the meantime, Mr Museveni proposed what he said is a basic and pragmatic drip irrigation solution: farmers should perforate and fill mineral water bottles to sprinkle water on the seedlings.
“It is so easy,” he said. “The plant will not dry in the dry season. Therefore, please stop this carelessness.”
There was no report card on whether households given 11 million fruit seedlings, 15 millions of tea seedlings as well as banana suckers, dairy heifers, cassava stalks, piglets and chicken as select enterprises under the wealth creation scheme since 2013 have started earning Shs20 million per year, a government-set threshold.
President Museveni, after faulting professionals in-charge National Agricultural Advisory Services or Naads, ordered UPDF soldiers to run Operation Wealth Creation with his brother Salim Saleh as the overall overseer.
Critics at the time flagged that the uniformed men and women had battle experience unrelated to farming skills, but the President disregarded the reservations, handing the multi-billion project to mostly veterans ahead of the 2016 elections.
Mr Museveni yesterday said the government, working with a Chinese company, will soon begin making fertilisers in Tororor to reduce its price and increase supplies in the countryside.
He directed government departments and agencies to begin buying only from local entrepreneurs so as to capitalise the fledgling private sector whose major players have complained of declined earnings, prompting some to seek state bailout.
Citing Nyanza Textile Industries Ltd, a Jinja-based textile manufacturer, Mr Museveni said “I don’t want to see uniforms [for security forces] from outside (Uganda)”.
“And, I don’t understand why (the) government is buying things from outside. This should stop!” he said. This proclamations in many ways appeared to revive the Marxist-oriented Museveni, who on capturing power in 1986, despised thing made in West, preferring to buy from local markets. His taste however evolved with longevity in power, turning not only to embrace iberalisation, but with it also exotic imports.
Such trend should be reversed, he said.
The President yesterday looked four years back, repeating what the ten “strategic bottlenecks” to Uganda’s progress that he first enunciated in his 2012 Golden Jubilee Independence speech.
These include fighting ideological dis-orientation; eliminating sectarianism; improving education to refine human resource; facilitating private sector-led economic growth; developing road, rail and electricity infrastructure; market expansion through regional integration; pursuing industrialisation for value-added exports; develop the service sector to create jobs; modernising agriculture to increase household incomes; and, deepening democratic governance.
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