- Many farmers pick losses at the various stages, including during harvest, drying, grading, processing and storage.
- Therefore, introducing machinery to help curtail the losses should be regarded as a great leap towards relieving the country of the stress associated with being food insecure.
- Against this backdrop, it is vital for government to rollout the programme, which is long overdue, across the country.
It is a welcome news. This newspaper on Wednesday reported that government with funding from the World Bank through Agricultural Technology and Agribusiness Advisory services, has procured machinery to curb post-harvest losses in Lango and Acholi sub-regions.
This is a milestone that government should consider rolling out beyond the two sub-regions given that the country has been experiencing worrying levels of food insecurity. High on the causative list of factors cited is poor post-harvest handling, where farmers, especially those in the food-producing regions, often register losses in billions of shillings.
Many farmers pick losses at the various stages, including during harvest, drying, grading, processing and storage. Therefore, introducing machinery to help curtail the losses should be regarded as a great leap towards relieving the country of the stress associated with being food insecure.
Against this backdrop, it is vital for government to rollout the programme, which is long overdue, across the country.
However, as government embarks on this journey, it should not be blind to the fact that today, many farmers, especially in the districts bordering neighbouring South Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and DR Congo virtually have no harvest to talk about. In the border districts, buyers troop from across the country not only to purchase the available produce, but also to buy whole gardens of rice, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum and ground nuts, among others. Thus at harvest time, our farmers literally have no produce to dry, process, and store.
While it would seem people sell produce immediately after harvest due to lack of appropriate storage facilities, this does not tell the whole story. So the government needs to first ascertain the cause(s) of this practice, plug the holes and put a stop to such exploitative transactions.
Also the government must sensisitise citizens on the dangers of selling all their harvest and sometimes giving away their entire crops still in the gardens for a song. This practice does not only lessen the benefits that should accrue to farmers, but it also frustrates other actors along the value chain.
Given the high level of poverty among farmers, most of whom cannot afford more than a decent meal a day, government should urgently prioritise improving household incomes and stop offering mere lip-service. Otherwise with no clear cash crop to sell to earn income, it will be an uphill task to dissuade farmers from selling their harvest at any stage hence leaving them with nothing to store.
While improving post-harvest may restore Uganda’s status as a food basket of the region, still the government needs to do more to ensure that the country is food secure.