By Arajabu Wampula
The minister for Agriculture Frank Tumwebaze on Tuesday commissioned the ground breaking for construction of sh 3.2b Agricultural Mechanization Centre with sound to people that encroaching on the ministry of Agriculture institutional land.
Tumwebaze in campany of state minister for Agriculture and fisheries Angelina Asege graced the ground of the agricultural mechanisation centre in Bungokho constituency in Mbale district
While delivering his speech Tumwebaze vowed to open up war against people who encroaching and grabbing ministry of Agriculture institutional land in the country.
“Am appealing to commissionersin.tje ministry of Agriculture to document all institutions across the country whose land has been encroached on or grabbed.” Tumwebaze said.
“We should now open war against these land grabbers and how can we serve the people well when the ministry land has been grabbed. The war has began and I will chicken out untill all the grabbed land has been reclaimed back” He added.
Tumwebaze also said that thousands hectares of ministry of Agriculture institution land has been grabbed or encroached on by land grabbers and warned district leadership against conniving with land grabbers to steal government land.
“This term we are under instructions and it’s going to be kissanja hakuna muchezo ten times. The head if the state is not going to tolerate any small mistakes” he said.
He also warned the district extension workers against getting involved in political matters and forget the reason as to why they are paid adding that most extension workers spend most their time in cities and town instead of helping the farmers on the ground.
“We are going to give more support to the extension workers with transport so that they are able to reach it visit farmers at the grass root as way of promoting the parish model farming.
campaign is aimed at promoting agricultural mechanisation in Elgon part of Bukedi and Teso.
According to the ministry of Agriculture iassistant commissioner in engineering Boniface Okanya said that the ntervention is expected to increase farmers’ access to agricultural equipment such as tractors, bulldozers, graders, combine harvesters, forklifts, agro-processing machinery, farm tools, straw choppers, and excavators, among other equipment.
said the initiative will increase agricultural productivity and enhance quality along the value chain.
“Use of agri-machineries will help increase production by 40 per cent and bring down the cost of cultivation by 20 to 25 per cent,” he said.
“We want farmers to modernise farming methods to improve crop production to ensure food security and increased family household incomes. You are free as the community and as a farmer to use this equipment. It is not for commercial purposes, it is for the public. What is expected of you is to make your contribution,” Okanya noted.
He said farmers intending to build farm stores,construct dams,roads shall also be offered trucks at a subsidised cost to ferry the construction materials.
“The government has given its contribution. We are bringing the equipment by the end of this year; the government will do the servicing, pay the operators, and replacing spare parts,” Okanya said.
He noted that the government is paying special attention to standards and quality of products so that they can compete favourably in both the region and international market.
“We are going to do this in 18 zones and thus one is the 3rd to be done this all in the spirit of regional balancing. We started with five regional centres, Agwata (in Dokolo) being the first that will support the northern part of the country, part of the east and north east. We shall be launching others in Kiryandongo, Mbale, Buwama, and Bushenyi districts,” he said.
He added that government is also considering opening up 13 smaller units of agriculture mechanisation centres to support the five that will be commissioned this year.
The equipment will, however, not be used freely by the farmers but will be accessed at a subsidised cost.
He said the government will contribute 60 per cent of the cost while farmers will be required to pay 40 per cent to access the equipment.
“In these centres, we shall be training and skilling people, especially the youth and women to create employment. We shall be doing operationalization and maintenance and as you have seen, we are also launching a mobile workshop that will be going throughout the country to support the machinery,” he said.
The Mbale district LC5 chairman Muhammed Mafabi said mechanisation will help increase household income and food security. There are hundreds of rice, matooke, Irish, Tomatoes, Maize and other crops farmers in Mbale alone,adding that Elgon regional mechanisation centres will reduce the cost of production.
“We know that Elgin, Bukedi Sub-region has been the food basket. Most of our people have been relying on subsistence farming but use traditional tools to clear their farm land,” mafabi said.
Martin buyi a farmer in Bungokho said the dream of having farmers embrace commercialised agriculture will now be realised.
He said that farmers in Elgon and Bukedi have a limitation in engaging in large-scale commercial agriculture because they do not practice mechanised agriculture.