Kampala — THE Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) has delayed the procurement process of 500 walking tractors from Thailand.
In this financial year, the Government allocated sh2.8b for their procurement and the process was expected to be completed by September last year.
The procurement was recommended by the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and the agriculture engineers who successfully tested the 50 which Government had acquired from the same company. The testing was done in 2007 on their adaptability.
"The tractors were found to be versatile in all regions of Uganda. A phased approach to mechanisation is necessary," said Suruma in the 2008/09 budget speech.
However, uncertainty still surrounds the procurement of the 500 tractors which were meant to be distributed in 500 parishes. PPDA claims that the NAADS secretariat has to advertise internationally to attract more players instead of dealing with a single supplier. PPDA's spokesperson, Dorah Egunyu, says NAADS failed to honour the agreement it signed with the Siam Kubota Industry that is why they (PPDA) stopped the procurement process.
"The agreement had indicated that the procurement to be enforced on completion of the second testing of the tractors in the fields. This was not done and that is why we have been reluctant to allow NAADS to go on with the procurement," Egunyu said.
However, the NAADS technical manager, Dr. Joseph Oryokot says the agreement the Government signed with Kubota had nothing to do with the procurement process of the 500 tractors.
That the agreement required Ugandan scientists to travel to Thailand to be trained on how to operate the tractors; have the tractors tested from Uganda and then a team of technicians from Thailand come to test the soils.
"All these were done, that is why we recommended Government to procure the tractors. We thought procurement process was just a follow-up on what we had tested in the fields," said Oryokot.
Egunyu noted that when the PPDA board sat on February 5, to reconsider the matter; they insisted that the procurement process could only go through provided that Government advertises internationally to attract more players.
But Oryokot explained that by advertising again to attract international suppliers, it would defeat their initial evaluations of the Thailand made tractors.
"Why should we advertise again to attract more players whose tractors we have never tested? Asked Oryokot. He said the secretariat had instead appealed against PPDA's board decision and expected their concerns to be reconsidered this month.
Oryokot said the field tests of the tractors is the policy of ministry of agriculture that all machinery imported into the country undergo exploratory tests to evaluate their suitability.
The tractors cost sh4.5m each compared to sh60m for a 65-horse power tractor. The multipurpose single-axle tractors are suitable for small-scale farmers in both swampy and dry land.
The NAADS' engineering support assistant, Dan Kilimani, said they are called 'walking tractors' because farmers use them while walking.
Kilimani said they did a study which established that while it costs sh90,000 to open up an acre of land with a hoe, with a conventional tractor it costs sh70,000, and an ox-plough it is slightly lower at sh30,000. But it is cost effective with the walking tractor as it costs sh25,000.
Oryokot said the 50 tractors were distributed to farmers through the Integrated Support to Farmers Groups strategy, which is like a loan scheme.
The beneficiaries, which were selected basing on their credit worthiness, had to open bank accounts to deposit money for the tractors.
He said the deposited money remains the farmer's property to enable him acquire additional farm inputs.
Walking tractor field tests in Uganda.
Testing and evaluation of the performance of the Siam Kubota walking tractors was carried out in sample districts like Soroti for Eastern region, Mukono for Central Bushenyi for South and Kitgum for the North. Results of the testing and evaluation indicated that the tractor could successfully open up land in light soils.
It was also observed that the tractor could transport farm produce and goods of up to 1,000 kilogrammes on a simple trailer, which can be fabricated locally.
The current walking tractor models use diesel and are of power range 8 HP to 4HP. The 12 HP Kubota walking tractor can do all operation in the value chain and primary processing.
Each of the walking tractor units was supplied with standard implements, which include disc plough, mould board plough and a harrow (rake).
They were also supplied with implements like the planter, disc and mould board ridger.
Ploughing: A power tiller can plough 1.6 acres in a day with eight litres of diesel worth about sh50,000 including labour.
Harrowing: Seed bed preparation is done on previously ploughed garden to attain finer seed bed free of unwanted materials in readiness for planting. This operation is achieved using a harrower. One acre needs two to three litres of diesel in and the work done in less than two hours.
Weeding: Weeding needs the use of a weeder to remove unwanted plants in short period. Water pumping: A water pump is attached to the engine using support bracket with power transmitted through attached belts to utilise pumped water. On the farm, the water is used for irrigation, watering livestock and domestic purposes.
Transport: They can transport agricultural produce and people up to a capacity of 1,000kgs.
Agro-processing: The power tiller engine can run various primary processing equipment such as maize shellers, saw mills, grinding mills, rice shellers, and forage choppers.
Tractorisation in Uganda.
In 1960s the tractor hire scheme was begun by Government but by 1980s this had collapsed. Reasons for collapse included; collapse of the economy; weak infrastructure; poor management; and the general small size of land holding.
"The area cultivated per machine was small thus fixed costs were unacceptably high. Also the fear of tractors causing soil degradation was an aspect that was not fully resolved," explained Oryokot.
He said power tillers were first introduced in Uganda in the 1960s and the models introduced then were using petrol and of low horse power range (5-6HP).
"The models were mainly used for compound cleaning, limited on-farm transportation and cultivation using a rotorvator," he said.