Following President Museveni’s campaign pledge to give 18 million hoes to six million smallholder farmers, there has been public debate about whether hoes are the best tools for a country keen on modernising agriculture and improving production. Daily Monitor carried an interesting article about the topic on Tuesday last week.
It has also been discussed in other media platforms.
About 80 per cent of our farmers are described as smallholder farmers since they have small pieces of land. These are getting smaller as population increases because our traditional systems of inheritance dictate that when a father dies, land is shared by all his children.
In countries like UK or US only about five per cent of the population are farmers. Some farms in such countries are as large as a few square miles and the farmers use machinery such as tractors and combine harvesters to do the work. Such farmers are assured of an immediate market for their products since the majority of the people there are not food producers.
Our situation is different and it is perhaps the reason most of the farmers here are too poor to even buy their own tools.
About 80 per cent are food producers, each family struggling to produce their own food. Since nearly every household is producing food, the number of people to buy any excess food is quite small and therefore most farmers are cash-strapped.
Some of our gardens are so small that a tractor cannot easily turn around in them to do any work. Who needs a computerised combine harvester to pick maize from a two-acre farm? Simple tools like hoes are therefore still very useful to any small-scale farmer.
To modernise agriculture, smallholder farmers have to appreciate the importance of planting high-yielding seeds, the use of fertiliser, irrigation, and good agronomic practices as well as hygienic post-harvest practices. We must reduce land fragmentation and appreciate that to have real commercial farmers, means thousands of smallholders surrendering their land.
SOURCE: DAILY MONTIOR