Statement by the President given to the Conference on Modernisation of Agriculture

Tuesday 8th March 2011



H. E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

President of the Republic of Uganda

To the Conference on Modernization of Agriculture

On the Theme:





I have called this Conference to, once again, harmonize with you, this time on the issue of agriculture for modernization.  I say, once again, because we have repeatedly talked about these issues ever since 1995, when we started talking about Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA).  Some progress has been made in certain sectors.  I, now, call you here to demand pan-Ugandan action by all of you not only on the issue of agriculture but on all our transformation strategies.  This Conference is, however, dedicated to agriculture modernization.

First of all, let me clear the issue of a ‘crisis’.  By this, some of these charlatans and alarmists are referring to the rising prices for products – agricultural and otherwise.  It is true that prices of some items have gone up, locally and internationally.  Prices for products like sugar, petroleum, tea and others have gone up.  Some of the causes for these prices going up are temporary e.g. bad weather in Brazil and India.  This has affected the prices of sugar and tea.  Some are, however, systemic.  Up until about ten years ago, only a small aristocracy of the world population in Europe, North America and Japan lived an opulent life – good houses, locomotion in cars, good food, education and other good things.  The rest of the world population were underdeveloped and, therefore, consuming very little.  Underdeveloped societies consume little of everything: sugar, cement, steel bars (miteyimbwa) for modern houses, steel for cars, milk, beef, etc.  With only a small population of the rich countries living a good life, the demand for commodities was small.  With bigger sections of the population of China, India, Brazil, Africa and the Middle East getting out of poverty, demand for commodities has gone up. 

Hence, the high prices for commodities generally apart from the seasonal factors.  With millions of Chinese, Indians and even Africans as you can see by the local example of cars here in Uganda, the price of crude oil has gone up from US$ 9 per barrel in July 1986 to US$ 120 per barrel now.  At one time, actually, it went up to US$ 147 per barrel (2008).  Is this bad for Africa?  Is this bad for us who produce such commodities as coffee, tea, cotton, food, minerals and many others?  Obviously, it is not bad.  In fact, the crisis was in the 1970s, when the commodity prices collapsed because of little global demand.  Prices for copper, cobalt, steel and other products went down.  That is how the economies of some the African countries that depended on these commodities greatly suffered.  I remember, for instance, the problems that faced the economies of Zambia (when the Kwacha became strong i.e. one Kwacha was about three dollars), Congo-Kinshasa (DRC) and other countries.

In the case of Uganda, apart from the global demand, there is also the regional demand that has grown in recent times.  This regional demand insures us against global slumps in consumption.  That is why our economy kept growing the global economic slump notwithstanding.  Even this Financial Year, for instance, our economy will grow by 5%.  Until a few years ago, we were being told that our steel industry at Muko in Kabale was not economic because there was too much steel in the world and the world prices were very low.  That is why we could not develop a steel factory at Muko.  That was before the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, the Africans and many others started building modern houses.  At that time, the price of steel per tonne was US$ 300.  It is now about US$ 710 per tonne.  Some of you must have seen steel factories near Namagunga, near Iganga and I think there is another one in Njeru, or Mbalala.  These are coming up by themselves because of the high demand for steel.  Since there is increased demand for steel, we are now going to develop that steel in Muko in Kabale.

These higher commodity prices are an opportunity and a blessing for Africa, especially Uganda.  Yes, there are sections of our populations who will be adversely affected by higher commodity prices.  These are, mainly, sections of our population who have become divorced from production over the years (such as town dwellers) and also salary earners.  Durable solutions and compensatory mechanisms will be found for them as long as those efforts do not hurt the growth of the economy.  Those solutions are there and will be provided. But farmers (producers), exporters as well as manufacturers will benefit from higher commodity prices because this is an opportunity for them and people should stop calling it a crisis.

Coming back to the question of agriculture, which is the main reason why I invited you here, Uganda’s agriculture could be divided into four categories: plantations farmers; medium and large-scale farmers; small-scale farmers that have embraced the concept of commercial farming; and a big section of our people that are still engaged in subsistence farming (farming only for household food) in this era of money economy.

The plantation owners know what they are doing and have contributed a lot to our economy for many decades.  These are, mainly, in sugar, palm oil (BIDCO) in Kalangala as well as tea in Mityana, Bunyoro, Kyenjojo, etc.  They use improved seeds, follow modern agro-practices, use fertilizers and also irrigate to some extent.  Recently, when I visited Madhivan’s sugar factory, Madhivan was complaining that the sugar cane was starved of water and therefore could not give enough yield. Why do they not irrigate the whole crop?  It is because probably on account of the expenses involved.  We need to find out why.  These plantation owners should be engaged and given all the support.  Lugazi sugar plantation should expand as they had planned, before they were stopped by the riots of Anywar and her group, by getting the degraded forest land they had wanted; Government and the Amuru Community should conclude, within three months, the issue of the new sugar factory in Amuru; Government’s policy of sugar zonalization should be strictly adhered to, so that poaching one another’s sugar cane stops; Kinyara should be given more land from Isimba Government prison’s land to grow more sugar cane.

The medium and large-scale farmers should be engaged and, where necessary, assisted to use their pieces of land for cattle ranching, dairy farming, production of maize on a big-scale, cotton, coffee, tobacco, bananas, fruits and many other crops.  These medium and large-scale farmers need to be assisted with micro-irrigation, especially.  The Ministry of Agriculture should resolve the question of the good technology for pumping water.  Should we use solar-powered pumps or what?  What is cheaper and sustainable?  The Ministry will also ensure the quality of the seeds for pasture, seeds for food crops as well as the breeding stock for livestock.  They will do this using Government Stock Farms as well as working with selected, licensed private breeders and seed developers.  Improved seeds, improved breeding stock, appropriate irrigation systems, improved agro-practices are a must here.  Each level of authority should ensure that these activities are carried out in their respective areas of jurisdiction.  When I go to my home area of Nyabushozi-Kazo, Kiruhuura District, for instance, you wonder whether there is a Government in Uganda or not.  Why should the Agricultural/Veterinary Departments allow that level of overstocking to the extent of causing soil erosion and overgrazing?  What are the concerned Departments doing?  You do not have to use force.  You first engage these people and educate them.  If necessary, the law should be strengthened to ensure that every body follows the correct agro-practices.  The Ministry will deal with the production and regulation of improved seeds and improved breeding stock, the right technology for irrigation, etc.  The Sub-county officers and District officers are to ensure that the proper agro-practices are followed. Since this category of medium and large-scale farmers have got bigger pieces of land, there is need for using tractors to till the land and also using caterpillars for bushing clearing.  The Ministry of Agriculture should determine within four months where this agricultural machinery should be based.  Should it be given to the Cooperatives, to the individuals, to the Sub-counties, or to which group?

I must salute the small-scale farmers that have embraced my message of using the already fragmented pieces of land to get higher returns so as to get out of poverty.  They have followed our advice on proper enterprise selection; using improved seeds and improved breeding stock; modern agro-practices, etc.  There are some who have followed our advice of the following packaging of enterprises: one acre of improved coffee; one acre of improved fruits, one acre of improved fruits, one acre of bananas for food and cash; one acre of elephant grass (ebisagazi, ebibingo), for zero-grazing dairy cows (about six of them); improved pigs, improved goats and improved chicken at the back of the home; fish farming in the valley; and apiary (bee-hives) in one corner of the farm.  This packaging is for the wet areas of Buganda, Bunyoro, Busoga, Tooro, Kigezi, Ankore, some parts of Lango and parts of Acholi.  The other areas of Teso, West Nile, Bukedi, etc., could have a slightly different packaging.  This would include: one acre for upland rice; one acre for fruits; one acre for pasture; one acre for cassava.  They would, then, add on chicken, goats, pigs, apiary and fish-farming on the edges of the huge swamps of these areas.  Those who have followed this have done very well.  These enterprises are the ones that are suitable for small-holders.  They bring higher returns.  It makes no sense to have a small-holder growing maize or cotton.  Even when the yields are high, they will not make good money.  These small-farmers who have converted to commercial farming should be assisted by the Local extension workers, the district leaders and also the Ministry of Agriculture should assist these farmers with guidance and provision of improved seeds, improved breeding stock, irrigation technology, advice on improved agro-practices, etc.  If the fertilizers are necessary, the farmers should buy them on their own.  I fear the idea of subsidies.  It can ruin the economy of a country.  The use of ox-ploughs should be propagated as widely as possible.  This is an efficient and cost effective way of tilling land on a small scale.  This is in addition, of course, to the use of the ordinary hand hoes.

That leaves us with the last category of the homesteads that are still stuck in subsistence farming (only growing food and no cash efforts).  There is also a category of people who select wrong enterprises.  They, for instance, select low value crops or enterprises e.g. maize, cotton tobacco, indigenous cattle, etc. which can only make sense if they are done on a big scale.  Low value enterprises on a small scale are a recipe for disaster in terms of poverty eradication.  In Kiruhuura district, the other parts of Ankore and other areas of the cattle corridor, I tackled this mistake starting with 1989.  This was in addition to the earlier efforts that we had undertaken in the 1960s of stopping nomadism.  I made these people shift from the enterprise of indigenous cattle to the enterprise of dairy farming.  By 1995, I was sure that this was the correct way.  That is when I started a countrywide tour of educating people about okulembeka, jolo pii, aiga akipi, okutangiriza, etc.  However, many people did not pay heed.  Here, the parable of the sower in the Book of Luke, 8:4-15, is most relevant.  It says:

"The farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the road and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the sky devoured it. Other seed fell on the rock and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell amid the thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it.  Other seed fell into the good ground, and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundred fold"

This time, I have invited you here my comrades to ensure that the seeds fall on the fertile ground.  Those engaged in wrong enterprises compared to the size of their land must be re-directed to the appropriate enterprises.  Those still stuck in subsistence farming must be woken up.  This is your mission.

Even if the land is already fragmented to less than four acres, you can package the right enterprises that can emancipate these people from poverty.  Within one acre of land, we must look at food production, pigs, chicken, goats, cattle for milk, etc. with pasture planted at the edges of the land.  They may even have to buy the animal feed and pasture from other people.

That is why the mistake of land fragmentation will have to be stopped and reversed.  It is a historical mistake that parts of our country that are most fertile and that have a lot of water were allowed to be fragmented because of wrong land use policies.  Certain countries in Africa are suffering from this.  In Uganda, in Kiruhuura area, I discouraged this practice.  Inheritance by sub-dividing the land physically is a big mistake.  Children should be given shares so that they divide what comes out of the land rather than dividing the physical land itself.

The package of high enterprises I keep insisting on is essentially a rescue-operation for these fragmented lands of ours and the people who live on them.   Of course, you cannot have an economy that is only based on coffee, fruits, bananas, dairy cattle, etc.  You need maize, you need cotton, you need tobacco for those who insist on burning their lungs, you need beef, you need leather, etc.  Where will these come from?  They cannot be developed on fragmented pieces of land.  Should we import them from outside the country?  The import bill will be so big that Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) will go into bankruptcy.  Fortunately, there are still parts of Uganda where land fragmentation has not taken place.  These are: Lango, Acholi, Karamoja, Kiruhuura, Gomba, parts of Mubende, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, parts of Kayunga, etc.  Those areas should be discouraged from land fragmentation and persuaded to combine the high value enterprises as well as low value enterprises but on a big scale.

Agriculture must be linked with value addition.  We should process everything that is not eaten fresh.  That is why we need processing facilities at every sub-county.  My experiment in Kiruhuura is, again, useful here.  In the little Trading Centre of Rushere near my place, there are now 78 milk coolers processing 115,450 litres of milk per day.  In 1989, I put only one government milk cooler of 3,000 liters per day.  I, actually, went on my knees to beg for this milk cooler from the Ministry of Animal Husbandry then. Processing of maize, rice, fruits, oil seeds, etc., must all be done at the sub-county level (according to the local products).

Finally, on the question of the environment, environmental degradation should stop.  The cheap politicking by opportunists should stop.  Otherwise, the country will face disaster.  In my other documents, I have dealt with this issue at length.  We shall work with peasants involved to gradually reduce the encroachment on the wetlands, the sensitive zones of forest reserves, etc.  Sometime ago, people from Meteorology Department told me that 60% of the rain we receive is created by the moisture from the ocean while the remaining 40% of the rain is from the local moisture.  They gave me the example of West Nile and Karamoja regions, which are on the same latitude but with varying amounts of rainfall.  West Nile gets twice as much rainfall as Karamoja.  This is because of the swamps in Southern Sudan and the forests in Congo.  I want Government to work carefully to reverse the process of destroying forests and water swamps.

The future is bright.  Let us act right.  There is no crisis.  There are only challenges and opportunities.  Let us not lose any more time.

I thank you.

Yoweri K. Museveni


13th August - Entebbe State House

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