My name is Dr. Samuel Mugasi and I am the Executive Director of the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS), a statutory government agency established in 2001.
During the past 20 years, NAADS has evolved from mainly providing technical knowhow to farmers across the country to becoming the locomotive of promoting value-addition in Uganda’s agriculture supply chain.
The government through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries is implementing a program called the Commodity Approach under which a variety of cereals, fruits and livestock have been identified as future export champions.
Right now, our main job at NAADS, is to provide support to farmers to increase production and productivity by availing them with modern improved seeds and animal breeds to improve yields and output.
Apart from maize, beans, coffee, cocoa and rice, we have also been focusing on mangoes, oranges and apples. Heifers, goats, poultry, pigs and fish are also being targeted. Government is aware that it is crucial to modernize agriculture if we are to fully exploit Uganda’s comparative advantage.
Uganda has been zoned according to agro-ecological potential. Some areas are suited for fruits, like central and eastern, while western has been zoned for banana, coffee and tea and the north has been zoned for fruits, cassava and as well as grains.
Each district has given NAADS their three to five year strategic commodity plan highlighting their needs in order to achieve optimum production. We extend support through the respective district local governments. However, experience has also taught us that if you are to commercialize agriculture we need to deal with the question of availability of an adequate workforce on the farms.
That is why NAADS is supporting farmers with a tractorization programme. We first procured 40 tractors and ordered another 280 making a total of 320 to date. These machines are being distributed across the country. Our present mandate has also required us to develop new partnerships and strengthen others if set goals are to be achieved. For example, NAADS is in constant consultation with the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and other relevant agencies like the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
Several companies in the private sector, notably processors and commodity exporters, confer with NAADS on a regular basis to ensure performance targets are met.
Our relationship with Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) is both structural and strategic. Structural in the sense that the OWC is a government umbrella program aiming at helping 68% of Ugandan households engaged in subsistence farming to shift to a more market-oriented level and consequently earn higher incomes. Strategically, NAADS works closely with the Uganda People’s Defence Force, particularly in the logistics of delivering materials to the wananchi across Uganda.
We are even seeing more youth getting interested in agriculture. To me, that is a notable achievement for NAADS. We have paved a way for transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming.
Our interventions have awakened an increasing number of people and caused a change in the mindset, that agriculture can indeed be a source of livelihood. The sector is growing at almost 4% per annum. This is no mean achievement bearing in mind that the sector only gets 3% funding from the national budget instead of the 10% designated in the 2003 Maputo Declaration. Nonetheless the future is promising.
As I speak, a six metric tonne mango processing factory is under construction in Yumbe, West Nile region. Not long ago, Makerere researchers came out with a study which showed that the pulp from these local varieties of mangoes offer very good pulp. We have been informed that some of our beverage companies, including Coca Cola (Century Bottling Company), have shown an interest. We hope to have the factory commissioned sometime next year.