For the last three years’ government has invested heavily in mechanizing the agricultural sector with over 280 tractors purchased in 2019.
However, these haven’t been fully utilized with only 15% of farmers able to access the mechanized equipment.
Eng. Okanya Boniface, the assistant commissioner engineering and mechanization at the Ministry of Agriculture, attributes this to limited skills among farmers to operate this equipment.
Agriculture is Uganda’s leading sector contributing over 44% of the country’s gross domestic product and the sector employs to over 80% of Uganda’s total population directly and indirectly.
Worryingly, however, over 99.4% smallholder farmers in Uganda still use traditional, rudimentary and obsolete technologies for production and post-harvest operations and this has kept the sector at subsistence agriculture level.
Engineer Okanya argues, “Poor agricultural mechanization is one of the biggest hindrances to transforming Uganda’s agriculture from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture and as a ministry we have embarked of changing the status quo."
As one of the ways of promoting increased agricultural production and productivity, the Ministry of Agriculture has stepped up its investment in agricultural mechanization where different farmer groups were given different machines.
Joy kabatsi, state minister for Animal Industry, says, “Currently 280 farmer groups have been given tractors while others have the small man handled tractors that are used by small scale farmers."
The challenge of how to use this new technology is holding back many farmers though.
This is why, “When you add the old and new tractors, the country has over 4500 tractors most of which are not in use as farmers don’t know how to operate these machines," Okanya says. This means most of these machines are sitting unused.
To address the gap, the ministry has started training tractor operators that transfer the skills to farmers in their groups.
These are being taken through the different skills of driving and maintaining the tractors.
Shuwu Michael, value chain development officer NAADS, says, "Each of these tractors require 2 operators therefore we are training 560 tractor operators for the start until we attain the required number of tractor operators."
This year government is to add on the number of both heavy duty tractors and also the small man handled tractors.