UNDP Country Director's remarks at the high level dialogue on agricultural transformation

Aug 18, 2015

Honourable Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives,
Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
The Resident Representative, FAO Uganda
Your excellencies the Ambassadors
Development Partners present,
Members of the Civil Society, Private Sector, and the Academia
Colleagues from the UN system,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of UNDP, I take this opportunity to welcome you all to this important dialogue on agricultural transformation in Uganda.

We are very privileged to partner with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives in hosting this event, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries; and the Uganda Cooperative Alliance.

This dialogue 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 practice on a multiplicity of policy issues. We are convinced this will strengthen government’s development efforts across sectors.

The dialogue’s theme on; “Revitalizing Cooperatives for ‘Smart’ Agriculture and Structural Socio-economic Transformation,” is particularly critical and timely, because of the important role of the agricultural sector to Uganda’s economy.

The sector, is one of three key priority development areas of the second National Development Plan (2015/16 - 2019/20). The others are Tourism and Mineral Development. Together, the three sectors have potential to propel this nation to a middle income economy in the next 5 years.

Agriculture in particular, is an important source of livelihoods for the majority and employs over 60% of the population. Therefore, its potential to significantly contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction cannot be overstated.

Over the past two decades however, the performance of the sector has gone down, with registered growth rates of less than 3 percent, compared to over 5 percent in the mid-1990s. This implies that more than half of the population is not only progressing slowly, but is also contributing less to economic growth. This raises the important question of how we can harness the efforts of our predominantly rural population to do agriculture more smartly, and harvest more economic and social benefits.

A dialogue like this one is a great market place of innovative ideas with potential to catalyze a transformative shift in the agricultural sector and change the life of a rural farmer significantly.

As most you know, cooperatives are not new in Uganda. They have been operational since the early years of the country’s independence. The ultimate goal of cooperatives is to create an environment where everyone has opportunity, and the guiding institutional framework to contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The revival of cooperatives is a good indication of government recognition of their economic potential as well as their catalytic role in delivering tangible development results. I commend the leadership of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives for spearheading this initiative and for bringing other partners on board.

With the support of all players in the country, the revival of cooperatives has great potential to eradicate poverty, generate employment, ensure food security and better nutrition, and contribute to gender equality and sustainable natural resource use.

The United Nations values cooperatives as a key people-centred approach to development. During the world summit held in 1995, member countries made a commitment to harness the potential of cooperatives in the pursuit of social development goals. Cooperatives embody the principle of strength in numbers - of uniting together to prosper as ONE rather than individually.

Globally, UN agencies have provided technical support to governments in developing and institutionalizing cooperatives. In Uganda, UNDP’s support to the Development of Inclusive Markets in Agriculture and Trade has enabled vulnerable segments of the population 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.

In UNDP next country programme which starts next year, we will focus very strongly on strengthening institutional capacities, including providing more support to inclusive value-chains in the agriculture sector.

We however, would like to encourage more cooperation with the district local governments, which are best placed to reach communities, especially those in remote and hard to reach areas, to ensure the benefits of cooperatives are delivered to Everyone.

Honorable Minister, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are due to expire at the end of this year, and will be replaced by 17 new Sustainable Development Goals that will drive nations on a path of sustainable development over the next 15 years.

We commend the Government of Uganda for integrating the global development goals into the second National Development Plan (NDPII). This affirms Uganda’s commitment to the global development agenda –and in localising it.

I call upon all the Ministries, departments and Agencies to further localize these goals in their respective development plans and strategies to maximize development efforts. You will find some reading material on the SDGs and other relevant information in your folders for your further reading and reference.

The new sustainable development framework not only calls upon each and every one of us to work towards transforming our world, it challenges us to leave no one behind. Therefore, as we discuss today, let us consider:

i) How best cooperatives can be re-engineered within a liberalized environment to unlock the potential of Uganda’s agriculture, and
ii) The ways in which cooperatives can be supported to innovate themselves by adjusting to the new development environment while applying cooperative advantages?

To stimulate dialogue and contribute to government’s efforts on these issues, UNDP commissioned research on : Re-engineering Cooperatives into Enablers of Agricultural Transformation in Uganda. The draft report will be presented here today and will benefit enormously from your constructive input and honest feedback. We expect the final report to offer suggestions on policy options, institutional arrangements and models of organization necessary for optimizing the contribution of cooperatives to agricultural transformation in Uganda.

As I conclude, I would like to thank the honourable Ministers of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives; and Agriculture, Animal, Industry and Fisheries. I also acknowledge and thank my colleague, Alhajji Jallow, the FAO Representative for participating in this dialogue. I also extend my appreciation to the leadership of the Uganda Cooperative alliance for keeping the cooperatives’ candle burning.

Together, we can work towards re-engineering Cooperatives into Enablers of Agricultural Transformation in Uganda to ensure we leave no one behind as we strive to eliminate poverty, inequality and exclusion.

I thank you all for listening.

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