When the government of Uganda launched the first of four regional agricultural mechanization centres in July 2020, questions were raised about their use and viability.
The government unveiled a countrywide plan to promote agricultural mechanization whereby human labour along the entire value chain is replaced by
animal power, fossil energy, or renewable energy.
The centres will host excavators, self-loading trucks, heavy earth-moving equipment, bulldozers, and mobile
mechanization workshop trucks for farmers on a lease or hire basis on top of providing them training and advisory services.
According to the African Union Development Agency, African farmers have ten times fewer mechanized tools per
farm area than farmers in other developing regions, and access has not grown as quickly as in other regions.
“50-85% of farm work continues to be done manually, without the support of animals or machinery. Only 10% of total power for land preparation in sub-Saharan Africa comes from engine-powered machines, usually using fossil fuels.”
Industry experts say farmers who have been accessing mechanization services before the government initiative reported increased efficiency and opened up more land for production. Such feedback informed the government’s decision to set in motion plans in climate-smart agriculture to push for mechanization on
a national scale.
Boniface Okaya, national project coordinator of this initiative says the project will bring services closer to communities while introducing people to new agricultural technologies. The vision is to open 18 such zones
across the country where farmers will get access to heavy equipment like tractors from mobile workshops within the centres.
Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s agriculture minister while breaking ground on the construction of Bungokho centre, pointed to the centres as game-changers. According to him access to heavy equipment has been very expensive. The government is looking to change that by bringing machines closer to people through such centres at subsidized prices.
The ministry intends to build centres in communities that previously had little or no access to machines and thereafter equip them with agricultural equipment (devices such as irrigation pump-sets), machinery and implements (devices attached to human, animal or mechanical power sources to carry out agricultural operations) which are key to this is capacity building.
Capacity-building is well on its way as the ministry has started training farmers on how to use equipment and implements.
George Okurut, a farmer is pro-mechanization and says a lot more needs to be done in terms of capacity-building before the projects take off. He believes training should start with sensitization as there are many primitive farming techniques people need to unlearn before they start to use machines.
The ministry has come up with strategies that will win over communities in order to secure its agricultural mechanization master plan.
One such strategy is Beneficiary Co-investment that leverages funding from both the public and private (farmers) sectors towards farm mechanization. The benefiting farmer organizations will be expected to participate in the program by mobilizing and pooling of resources as co-investment.
These resources may be in form of funds or ancillary infrastructure or equipment.
Another strategy is where support will be provided to cater for all regions and agro-ecological zones where relevant agricultural value chains exist or are being promoted in collaboration with other government departments. It will be provided to beneficiary farming communities to ensure effective operation, maintenance, management, ownership, and sustainability.