The issue: OWC programme
Our view: OWC should return to the basics and reflect on all the programmes for which it was instituted. Otherwise, why should it continue to supply farmers seeds and forget to build capacity to absorb the produce - right from harvesting, drying, storing, processing to marketing?
While closing a value addition workshop for residents of Kakuto County in Kyotera District recently, Lt Gen Charles Angina, the deputy coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), said the programme is now shifting focus to value addition (Daily Monitor, August 7).
OWC was established by President Museveni in July 2013 with a view to eradicate poverty and facilitate growth of households’ income, mainly through agriculture. Five years on, it is critical that the programme first conducts self-evaluation and give a report on how it stands today.
In September 2013, the OWC chairman Gen Salim Saleh, told participants at the annual agricultural sector review in Kampala that profitable agriculture will require coordination along the value chain, which include input supply, production, collection, storage, bulking, processing and marketing. Therefore, value addition is already an integral part of the programme right from its inception.
So, at a time when just a two-season bumper harvest of maize across the country has resulted in record low corn prices, with some of the crop rotting away in homes, OWC should explain what has constrained its component of, especially value addition, including processing of the crop.
Today, the prices of maize have fallen to less than Shs150 from Shs1,400 per kilogramme in the previous years. Rice is another crop that has registered plentiful harvest followed by falling prices. In Butaleja District, for instance, rice has brought despair instead of joy to the local farmers as the crop prices have dropped from Shs2,600 to between Shs1,700 per kilogramme.
So, it appears that the entire chain – from supply, production, collection, storage, bulking, processing to marketing of produce - is not functional. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have taken government intervention to inject Shs100 billion to buy off excess maize stock from farmers.
OWC should not take pride in the drop of prices of produce by saying it is due to increased farmers participation driven by the programme. Farmers invest their meagre resources to grow these crops both for food and to earn income. A bumper harvest should bring them higher returns on investment, not huge losses. The programme should have found market or built capacity to process the maize, rice and other produce to avoid frustrating farmers.
OWC should return to the basics and reflect on all the programmes for which it was instituted. Otherwise, why should it continue to supply farmers seeds and forget to build capacity to absorb the produce - right from harvesting, drying, storing, processing to marketing? For OWC to remain relevant, farmers should be able to reap dividends from its existence.