YUMBE. When the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) was rolled out to Yumbe district in 2017, many farmers didn't show interest to enrol themselves into the program.
The ministry of Agriculture wanted the district to mobilize 20,000 farmers to benefit from the program but the district managed to enrol about 1,557 farmers.
Farmers who never showed interest are now regretting their actions but they are now watching their colleagues earning millions of shillings in the program.
But as the Agriculture Cluster Development Project is coming to an end in March, 2022, the farmers have asked the government through the ministry of Agriculture to extend the project duration.
Mr Kassim Ejoyi, a farmer in Oyanga village in Kululu sub county said he got excited after getting the report about the agriculture cluster project.
"I got enrolled into the ACDP program in 2019 hoping that I was going to fail but I found myself progressing. They opened for me an acre of land and procured 8bags of cassava cuttings to start the business in the first season", he said.
"When I saw there was a good outcome, I decided to sell the cassava cuttings to Welthungerhilfe and Operation Wealth Creation in the second season and I used part of the money to increase the size of my cassava garden to 6acres now", he added.
Ejoyi said, he used part of the money to pay school fees for the children before the lockdown, stocking animals, feeding the family and building a house at home.
"If this program could continue with the support from the ministry of Agriculture and with more members brought in, there will be a complete change in our lives in the near future", he said.
Mr Muhammad Jamal another farmer in Bijo subcounty said, he started this project with an acre but now he has more than 5acres of cassava plantation.
Jamal added that he used the money got from the cassava cuttings to build a commercial house which he said will allow him to get money monthly through payment of rent.
"If there is hope of the project to continue, more support on supply of post harvest handling equipment and value addition is needed including market linkages", he said.
Under the ACDP program, 9 groups have been supported with construction of storage facilities, machine houses and procurement of machinery for value addition.
During the visit of the minister of state for Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries to Yumbe district to assess the impact of the ACDP program last week, the minister interacted with a section of the farmers and commissioned some of the completed value addition facilities.
Mr John Asea, the chairperson of Aliamu Farmers group said it's good that the facility for processing cassava has been constructed for the farmers but there are still gaps that need to be fixed.
He said lack of power and better water source pose a great challenge in processing cassava using the machine.
"To come up with a quality product, it needs water because wet processing of the cassava needs a lot of water. Without water, we are going to assign the women to fetch water from the valley which is very far and dirty that will compromise quality", he said.
However, Mr Abdul Mutwalib Asiku, the district chairman was not happy with the gaps in implementing the ACDP program in the district.
He said of the 1,557 farmers enrolled, about 300 farmers obtained tractor hire services and 600 farmers got improved cassava cuttings of Narocas 1.
"We were told, the project is ending in March, 2022 meaning for the remaining farmers to benefit, the project has to be extended to 2023. If the program is not extended, prepare to refund farmers money collected", he said.
He said over 5,000 farmers have already been trained on agronomy of cassava, rice and coffee by the extension workers and community-based facilitators and that some of the groups are moving towards formation of farmer cooperatives.
Asiku added that the ACDP is a good project and the slow implementation challenge must be addressed so that they see the NRM manifesto benefiting the masses.
Mr Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, the state minister for Agriculture assured the farmers of the possibility of extending the program but said the matter is still for discussion.
He said, the government is committed to causing transformation of the Ugandans so that their lives become better.
"We want Ugandans to be empowered so that they are able to produce more food because Agriculture caters for the livelihood of 70 per cent of the Ugandans. We want to encourage the farmers to grow crops for sale as they grow for nutritious food and that's why ACDP is one of the projects geared towards that", he said.
The minister said the 9 value addition facilities in Yumbe must come up and the machines should start doing work.
"The machines installed need water and power for processing cassava but we have seen this as a gap. Where we have made a mistake and excluded power and water in the projects, we need to go back and find solutions to address the problems", he stressed.
" If you are to carry out farming as a business, you must ensure that you have money to finance the investment in farming and we know using the commercial banks is too expensive. We have come up with a pillar of financial inclusion in the parish development model that will help the farmers a lot", he added.