The Observer (Kampala)

10 August 2014

Uganda: 300 Soldiers Train to Fight Poverty

Almost 300 army officers are receiving two weeks of training in agriculture at Makerere University.

The training was launched by Sarah Kataike, the minister of state for Luweero, at the university main hall on August 6. Kataike said the trainees include the 53 pioneer officers, who made quite an impact on agriculture and the general standard of living in Luweero Triangle in a year or so.

Kataike said the soldiers are being taught agribusiness, value addition and marketing, on top of the core topics of crop and animal husbandry. She said although President Museveni had designated Luweero Triangle as the model area for rapid poverty alleviation, the officers would be deployed across the country to help bring about agricultural commercialization and mechanization.

The minister of state for Agriculture, Zerubabel Nyiira, clarified that the soldiers would not replace civilian extension officers but, rather, boost their efforts to achieve a faster rate of revolutionising agriculture, which has been long overdue, despite the existence of good agricultural and anti-poverty policies. He said since the army had secured the country, it was wise to integrate soldiers in development efforts because it has specialists in many fields.

"This is not militarising agriculture. Soldiers are not going to replace extension staff; they will be assisting them, working together."

The minister further explained that the government is approaching the issue from the point of view of the art of war.

"The army won't stay in agriculture; they will leave once the mission is accomplished. We will do it, we must do it and it will be done," he said.

Gen. Katumba Wamala, the Chief of Defence Forces, proposed that after four months in the field, the entire team should return to Makerere University to review their performance. He urged the soldiers to treat their task as a real operation whose goals must be accomplished.

"Define it as an operation; Operation Revolutionise Agriculture, Operation Fight Poverty," Katumba Wamala said.

He urged the soldiers to define the enemy as poverty and set up their execution plans and timelines without fear.

"It's not the first challenging operation we have handled; so, there should be no fear of failing. If we couldn't fail in Somalia, we can't fail to fight poverty, working with the ministry of Agriculture and all Ugandans," Katumba said.

The training, which ends on August 20, is conducted by the college of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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