High Level dialogue on agricultural transformation calls for more efforts towards revitalisation of cooperatives in UgandaAug 18, 2015
Kampala - Government should strengthen its efforts towards revitalising cooperatives so as to improve the livelihoods of farmers and the agricultural sector which is central to Uganda’s economy.
This call was made during the first High Level Dialogue on Agricultural Transformation focusing on revitalising cooperatives for “smart” agriculture and structural socio-economic transformation in Uganda.
The dialogue was centred on a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned study on Re-engineering Cooperatives into Enablers of Agricultural Transformation in Uganda. It drew participants from Government, Private Sector, Development Partners, academia and most importantly players in the cooperative movement across the country.
Presenting the study, Professor Julius Kiiza, of the School of Social Sciences, Makerere University, said that agricultural transformation would only happen if the state resumed its strategic developmental role.
“Uganda must be rebranded from pedestrian farming to transformative agriculture in which cooperatives are seen as social enterprises that control the full spectrum of agricultural value chains. These value chains include agricultural inputs, farming, transport, storage, manufacturing, distribution and marketing,” Prof. Kiiza said.
He called for allocation of more funding to the agriculture sector in the National budget and training in cooperatives be given a central place through the creation of a cooperatives college to train experts who can advise farmers on how to manage cooperatives.
Most importantly, he called for the creation of a cooperative bank. This would be key in helping farmers access finance to invest in modern farming technology enabling them to increase quantity and value of their agricultural output.
Panel discussants who included Ms. Victoria Sekitoleko, a former minister of agriculture and FAO representative in various countries pointed out the key role of cooperatives in helping farmers find agricultural inputs, storage and markets for their produce.
The discussants called on Government to prioritise cooperatives in all its policies, support them and ensure to keep the politics out of their management so that they are able to reach the smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.
Responding to the presentation on the study, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives said the Government is committed to the revival of cooperatives.
“We are already supporting cooperatives in Soroti, Eastern Uganda, where they are growing oranges. We are supporting them to add value to those oranges too,” Hon. Kyambadde said.
She added that Government was already licensing warehouses to help farmers with storage while the Uganda Commodities Exchange (UCE) trading floor which will be launched in September 2015 would be key in providing farmers with market information, and linking them to buyers for their produce among other things.
UNDP’s Country Director, Ms. Almaz Gebru said the United Nations values cooperatives as a key people-centered approach to development, adding that cooperatives embody the principle of strength in numbers - of uniting together to prosper as one rather than individually.
She added that UNDP has been supporting the Development of Inclusive Markets in Agriculture and Trade through which vulnerable segments of the population have been enabled to actively participate in agricultural value-chains, mainly targeting cassava, rice and bean commodities.
“In the course of this support, Area Cooperative Enterprises (ACEs) have played a major role in providing more than sixty three thousand (63,000) small holder farmers access to national and regional markets. With good organisation, I believe this can be extended to include global value chains,” she said.
Ms. Gebru pointed out that UNDP’s next country programme, which starts 2016, would continue to focus strongly on strengthening institutional capacities, including providing more support to inclusive value-chains in the agriculture sector.
Contributions from the dialogue will be added to the final study report. These will offer suggestions to the Government, Development partners and other sector players on policy options, institutional arrangements and models of organization necessary for optimizing the contribution of cooperatives to agricultural transformation in Uganda.
The dialogue was organised by UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and Uganda Cooperatives Alliance (UCA) to encourage the discussion on how to transform the agriculture sector. It is the start in a series of interactive discussions that UNDP will be hosting in collaboration with Government and other partners, to raise awareness, share and disseminate knowledge, as well as best practices on a multiplicity of policy issues.