Flashback: PANEL DISCUSSION: OPPORTUNITIES IN RURAL UGANDA: THE NEED TO INVEST IN UGANDA’S RURAL TRANSFORMATION
- Investing in different points of the agriculture value chain: where can investors capture the best returns?
- What can government do to increase private sector participation in agriculture development?
- Moderated by Mrs Perez Ochieng, CEO SACOMA, the panel includes:
- Hon. Agnes Akiror Egunyu, Minister of State for Teso Affairs
- Dr. Samuel Mugasi, ED, NAADS
- Mr. Henry Ngabirano, MD, Uganda Coffee Development Authority
- Hon. Winfred Kiiza
- Hon. Cecilia Ogwal
- Hon. Antony Okello
- The Moderator Mrs Perez Ochieng welcomed the panel and guests to the Convention and explained the rules and process of this discussion.
- She reminded the audience about what was discussed during the Convention at that stage. She also explained her background in value addition, exporting and access to markets which gave her the authority to speak on the topic at discussion as she is what the Government of Uganda is promoting, but in practise.
- The moderator asked the panel to explain in their answers how prepared they were as a country in accessing the market that we are seeking.
- Winfred Kiiza introduced herself and explained her position in the Ugandan Parliament. The Hon expressed what Government could do to ensure the advancement of Agriculture in Uganda. She stated that Uganda had zoned in on the agricultural products that each region could produce, this zoning strategy was available for all to see. Agriculture caters for about 80% of population but there was a problem with access to financing according to Hon. Kiiza. She further stated that if the population was to be advanced, government must pay more attention on agriculture. This could be done by Government supporting the opening of an agricultural bank to support agriculturist in accessing credit at low interest rates. The Hon also called for investors to provide insurance for agricultural activities and investments in water schemes that will ensure a steady supply of water for agriculturist so that the risks in the sector would be reduced. Hon. Kiiza also stated that Government should revive the district farm institutes with private partnership as this would provide more opportunities and resolve issues, for example, the problem with post-harvest maintenance to avoid wastage. Hon stated the above would also lead to jobs for the people.
- Cecilia Ogwal introduced herself and explained her rural background stating that everything about her was rural. Hon. Ogwal stated that the rural man and woman should be taught better on how to use their land economically in order to maintain the family. She stated that land was the most valuable asset in Uganda at 241,550 square km, therefore, investments should be made knowing that the people would not be deprived of their land and that they would be taught on how to better use their land economically. Hon suggested that education for our people would help fight this ignorance. Hon also stated Africa shouldn’t be poor as Africa had the worlds raw materials for development, therefore, Africa was rich and shouldn’t sing the same song as that outside of Africa. Hon. suggested a change in the style of talking about Africa, which was in line with the agenda at the agenda 2026 transforming the mind-set of Africa, Hon. stated that she hated people who portray pictures of naked Ugandans as we are rich people not poor, we should show a good view of Uganda and Africa.
- Okello Anthony introduced himself and explained his position in the Ugandan Parliament. Hon stated that about 80% of population is involved in agriculture, many of which were practising it at a subsistence level, however, the demand for these products was expanding. Hon. stated that Ugandans could not tap into this demand and communities could not be transformed if farming was at a subsistence level. The Hon. suggested that we should transform the way within which we cultivated. He informed members that the income was increasing worldwide therefore, people’s disposable income would increase. The Hon. also reminded the delegates that Uganda’s risk of doing business had reduced, therefore, investments in value chain financing would help in meeting the needs and addressing the raised concerns. He explained the Operation Wealth Creation, which was a Government scheme that had a deliberate effort to promote mega production of certain crops which would lead to industries being created around these crops which would further lead to employment. Hon. Okello hinted on Soroti’s intention to have a fruit factory, however, he conceded that many of these factories around the country were needed for adding value to the mention crops as this would lead to the transformation of the Ugandan, a transformation which would be private sector led.
- Moderator Mrs Perez Ochieng reminded the panel that the points raised from the discussion should be forwarded to the British MP’s at Parliament when the delegation of Mr Mutenza goes there after the Convention.
- Samuel Mugasi, Executive Director, National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) introduced himself. It was his second time to the Convention. Dr gave figures to help investors with their investment decisions, these were as follows. Africa had about 60% of arable land in the world, yet we import around 35 billion of food, this money could be spent on the continent. Uganda had about 40% arable land in East Africa. The world population was increasing, therefore, Africa held a key role in contributing to feeding the world based on our arable land coverage. In agriculture in Uganda, the returns as you go up the value chains increased. For example, the diary value chain included yogurt, pasteurising of milk etc. as Uganda continued to produces 2 billion litres of milk. This opportunity also was applied to, grains, coffee, tea. For tea we were planning to have an auction in Kampala for tea as this was done in Tanzania currently. Dr wanted investors for fertilisers. In Uganda the uptake was about 2kg per hectare, if this was increased to 10, Uganda could feed the whole of Africa. Mr. Henry Ngabirano, Managing Director, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) asked the question, how prepared were we to access the market? He believed that the best investment was in the rural communities and with a view of keeping up with market demands, it would keep people informed with information on market demands in the outside world and the pace at which they changed so that Uganda could meet the demand and gave the investor the value they expected. Once this was done and the rural community based person responded, he believed that they should be remunerated well. He gave the example of the coffee industry where the price paid for the sustainable produced coffee wasn’t enough to keep investing in coffee despite Uganda least using available artificial fertilisers. Mr. Henry Ngabirano had a message for Ugandan investors in the Diaspora. He suggested that they should invest in crops that were of season in Uganda, invest in education and information sharing with those in Uganda and invest in creating markets for the crops. He finished by advising those in the Diaspora to invest in idle land back home.
There were three questions from delegates
- On the issue of rural development in Ntungamo and in particular menstrual hygiene for girls in rural schools, research states that girls miss 3 days a month which results in missed education and contributed to poverty which again contributed to urban migration, Ida Horner wanted to know what was being done by government about this.
- On the issue of treatment of local Ugandans at the hands of foreign investors, the delegate stated that his experience on the ground saw Asians mistreat local Ugandan workers. He wanted to know what was being done by government about this.
- The vice chair NRM Diaspora asked if MPs recognised that they were role models as the public were listening and watching their behaviour?
- In response to the 3 questions raised, Hon. Kiiza addressed the menstrual hygiene for girls in rural schools issue and said that studies had been carried out in regard to the issue of school drop out for females and some of the causes. Hon Kiiza stated that Government had put aside money for sanitary towels/pads to be given out to the respective schools. Hon also stated that parents should stop cultural tendencies which discriminated against the girl child which made the problem worse e.g. early marriage.
- In response to the 3 questions raised, Mr. Henry Ngabirano answered the question on mistreatment of workers by foreign investors. He answered in the context of market requirement. He gave an example of how in coffee industry there was a market requirement that related to how all workers were treated, e.g. all workers were required to wear gum boots. Therefore, issue of workers’ rights should be addressed in context of market requirements.
- Moderator Mrs Perez Ochieng suggested that consumers should be able to understand what the investors were doing in their own operations in response to workers’ rights issues.
- In response to the image of MPs in public, Hon. Ogwal stated that the rules of engagement anywhere in the world were that the terms and conditions for employment were clearly stated. A co-sharing formula was what was offered n where the government and the MPs were sharing the cost for the car and driver. She gave examples of RDCs who were given vehicles and drivers and no one complained. Permanent Secretaries got more money than MPs for cars and drivers but there were no complaints. Hon stressed that MPs should be fairy facilitated to enable them represent their constituents diligently.
- Hon Kiiza addressed the issue of workers’ rights and stated that the problem started when our children left Uganda as house helpers, drivers, etc. They were abused and the companies that facilitated their travel abroad were fake companies. In Uganda some of the investors accelerated this problem by sexually and emotionally abusing workers who later on bribed officials and victims to drop some of these cases. Hon. finally stated that a law on minimum wage was being pursued as to in order to protect the workers’ rights and safety. Hon. Kiiza also recommended the Labour unions, representatives of churches etc. to join in this fight.