Uganda: Army Mess in OWC Caused Govt Huge Losses - Official

Kampala — A senior official in the ministry of Agriculture has said the army's Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) intervention made government suffer huge losses in the initial stages because the programme was messed up by soldiers.

Ms Beatrice Byarugaba, the Director of Extension Services in the ministry, did not disclose the actual amount of money lost, but said the seedlings and heifers the soldiers distributed to farmers had a mortality rate of up to 60 per cent.

"Our leaders believe that when they give a cow, seedlings, they are doing agriculture. They think they have really delivered and when you look at our budget, a big portion of it is going .....for inputs generally," Ms Byarugaba said.

She was speaking at the second Uganda Forum for Agriculture Advisory Services symposium at Kati Kati Hotel in Kampala on Thursday. The meeting discussed the role of extension and advisory services in transforming agriculture in Uganda.

"I want to give an experience; in 2015 when Naads [National Agricultural Advisory Services] had been disbanded, and OWC started using soldiers, they gave out a lot of seedlings and heifers, but when they carried out monitoring and evaluation, 60 per cent had died," Ms Byarugaba said.

Daily Monitor could not get a comment from the army spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, about the huge losses caused to government by the high mortality of OWC supplies as he did not answer our calls by press time.

Maj Tabaro Kiconco, the OWC public relations officer, did not also answer our calls either.

Ms Byarugaba, however, said the situation has since improved following the involvement of extension workers.

She urged the Ministry of Agriculture to register all farmers in the country for proper planning.

Ms Byarugaba said farmers fail to access modern agricultural technologies that would boost production.

The minister for Agriculture Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja recently called for more extension technicians saying that they are the game changer and 'extension services' has been the missing link.

The minister for Agriculture Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja recently called for more extension technicians saying that they are the game changer if Uganda is to transform agriculture.

"To cause agriculture transformation, we need to have a critical mass of agricultural technicians both in public and private sector working on a daily basis with small-holder farmers," Mr Ssempijja said and added that government had recruited 3811 out of the initial target of 5000 extension workers across the country.

Last year, Gen Salim Saleh, the chief coordinator of OWC, proposed a review of the programme to make it efficient.

He listed 25 challenges which included delivery of low quality inputs, late delivery, and delivery to wrong ecological zones, land degradation and weak farmers group among other impeding factors.

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