For many years, President Museveni has made it clear that he is unhappy with the performance of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), and vowed to disband it.
More recently, the President has upped his rhetoric against the programme, culminating in last week's announcement that he will replace Naads with army officers and veterans, who, he said, had been more effective in the distribution of seedlings in areas where they had been engaged.
Very many Ugandans share the president's frustration with Naads. The programme that aimed to transform Uganda's agricultural sector has struggled under the weight of abuse, corruption and political interference. Reports abound about local Naads officials hiring animals from one farm and ferrying them a few miles away to demonstrate to an unsuspecting president that there is a "model farmer" here, only for the animals to be returned to the real owner after the presidential visit!
Besides, accountability is hard to get because it's not clear where these officers' mandates and facilitation start and end. As a result, some of them demand to be paid by individual farmers for doing work that their employer (government) actually hired them for.
Nevertheless, the president's belief that army veterans are the best prescription to cure such ills is problematic. One of President Museveni's favourite wise sayings is that people should stick to their lubimbi (duty) to ensure efficiency and discipline. Indeed soldiers should stick to their lubimbi, which is to defend the country from attack, and only get involved in civilian duties in the case of emergencies.
The ideal way to deal with Naads is to first investigate why the programme has underperformed. This would shed light not only on Naads, but also on other similar government initiatives that have not lived up to their promise, including Entandikwa, Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture, and Prosperity for All. A commission of inquiry would be helpful as long as the government is committed to respecting its recommendations.
If Naads is disbanded without establishing where it went wrong, there is no guarantee that what befell it will not befall its successor(s), be it army veterans or not.