In a bid to widen its reach, the under-fire National Agricultural Aisory Services has distributed several tonnes of maize seeds to farmers through their MPs, The Observer has learnt. According to sources, Naads reached out to MPs through the Agriculture committee, and gave them seeds to distribute to farmers in their constituencies. However, MPs who received the seeds have rejected suggestions that the scheme was meant to compromise them. Naads has lately come under sustained attack from President Yoweri Museveni, who wants it disbanded for inefficiency.
According to sources, MP from different parties were given one tonne of maize seeds each, towards the end of March. However, some MPs were excluded – for instance those representing urban constituencies.
Democratic Party’s Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West) acknowledged receiving 1,000 kilogrammes (one tonne) of maize seeds, though he said he was not aware that the seeds were from Naads.
“For me I was contacted by honourable [Mathias] Kasamba [Chairman of Agriculture committee), who told me that there was an opportunity for MPs to get seeds for their electorates so I went to Victoria Seeds and picked the seeds,” he said. “One tonne is not enough, Imagine I have over 50,000 voters so, I had to give one cup [of seeds] to every person and many didn’t even receive.”
Buikwe South MP Michael Lulume Bayigga said MPs only assisted Naads in the distribution exercise: “You see Naads has been struggling to give out seeds to farmers on time. So, what was important at the time when the MPs received seeds was for farmers to receive seeds for planting on time for the season.”
Asked whether this was going to be routine, Bayigga said it was a one-off. Last October, The Observer reported that some MPs received seeds from Naads. Ephraim Biraaro, (Buhweju MP), said he didn’t get the seeds: “It is true that MPs have been getting seeds from Naads, but for me I didn’t get, because I went late and the seeds were over. But I’m told next season I will get two tonnes.”
Asked about the seeds, Naads Executive Director Samuel Mugasi (pictured below) said they had only partnered with Parliament o ‘champion’ the cause of food security. He said this was after realizing that MPs were working with Uganda Coffee Development Authority to promote coffee growing.
Source : The Observer