NEBBI. Despite it being a staple food in the West Nile region, majority of the populace have not embraced the growing of cassava extensively even though the demand has been increasing over the years.

As a result, the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal industry and Fisheries has launched a campaign dubbed ‘Agricultural Cluster Development Project (ACDP).’

The project which was launched in Nebbi district on Tuesday March 13, 2018 is aimed at promoting cassava production in West Nile Region.

Ministry officials said Nebbi district has been selected as a pilot district for the project in West Nile before it is rolled out to other four districts namely; Pakwach, Arua, Maracha and Yumbe.

Mr Alan Orlando, an Official in the Ministry of Agriculture said the project will also support intensification of farm production by providing farm inputs in form of seeds and pesticides to farmers in West Nile Region.

He maintained that seeds and input dealers will also be selected within the implementing districts of the region.

But Noah Angudria, the Yumbe district farmers Association Chairman said sometimes it is difficult to determine the standard quality of seeds required because of profit orientated suppliers.

He said some suppliers have been supplying fake seeds to farmers and as a result, many have ended up registering poor yields.

"Farmers have suffered in the hands of input dealers who sell to them seeds which cannot germinate and those that may germinate but with poor quality yields," Angudria said.

However, Dr. Anthony Okwir, the Nebbi district Production Officer clarified that input dealers will be registered nationally and vetted to avoid supply of fake seeds to farmers.

"In the case of cassava cuttings, suppliers will be expected to get it from their garden not from outside to avoid delayed delivery and dry cuttings," Okwir added

Ms Basie Ajilong Modesta, the Nebbi Residence District Commissioner (RDC) noted that the biggest challenge with cassava is that people are still fermenting it yet the market is low.

The State Minister for Agriculture Mr Christopher Kibazanga assured farmers that the project will equally support irrigation infrastructure development.

"We can no longer depend on rain for production because climate change is real these days, a reason we have set aside US$5 million for the Irrigation Scheme," Kibazanga said.

The Minster instead cautioned political leaders against conniving with technical officers to sign project completion forms without the projects being completed, an act he said has led to numerous cases of uncompleted projects in Uganda.

"Arrest corrupt officers, who will connive to steal money because government is spending a lot on this project," Kibazanga warned.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, some farmer organization leaders however said connivance to embezzle such project money originates from the top ministry official involved in the running of the projects.

The Agriculture Cluster Development Project is a six year project funded by the World Bank. The project focuses on raising farm productivity and marketable surplus of five priority commodities which include Maize, Beans, Rice, Cassava and Coffee in 42 districts across Uganda.

The districts have been grouped into 12 commodity clusters covering an average of three districts with proven potential for at least two of the selected commodities.

The project is worth 150 million US dollars to be cost shared between the government of Uganda and farmers to promote ownership.