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Presentation by Non-State Actors at the JASAR

 

The following text is of a presentation that was delivered by Ms. Agnes Kirabo, Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance at the Joint Agricultural Sector Annual Review (JASAR) that was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and that was held from 29th to 30th August 2016 at Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo. The presentation was voice recorded and transcribed by Ms. Norah Owaraga, Managing Director of CPAR Uganda Ltd. Photo Credit: Daily Monitor.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, protocol observed. My name is Agnes Kirabo. I am here to represent the non-state actors. Chair through you, before I start this presentation, allow me to make two disclaimers:

  • It is not our sole responsibility that we are standing between you and your fundamental human right to food. It is actually an insult to me as a person and the organisation that I work for, because we believe in food first and everything later.
  • This presentation that am making before this house is not of my sole making, but is of the making of that wider stakeholder that am representing and therefore all the questions that may be raised I may not be solely responsible for answering them. 

I was invited to share the experiences of non-state actors, especially civil society and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and that is the composition of the group that has met several months ago in preparation for this important event. 

Therefore, through you Chair, allow me on behalf of the non-state actors to commend the Government of Uganda (GOU) through MAAIF for opening up the window and the door at the same time to provide us with a platform to equally participate with you (extended applause).

We have been part of organising this meeting and, through you Chair, allow me to inform this house that the civil society sector has funded the side events that you must attend without fail after lunch (applause). 

Through you Chair, allow me to inform this house and the honourable ministers that the civil society put their brains together to come up with that image that has been significant in representing this JASAR; an image which we refer to as the JASAR image (applause). 

So, that is how far and how little we have been part of this process. We are here to stay as long as MAAIF and the sector of agriculture still prevails. 

Mr. Chair, I am supposed to share the role of CSOs (civil society organisations) and NGOs. I am pretty aware that everyone knows that we have two significant roles to play:

  • Providing a supplementary role to the GOU specifically through this sector.
  • The watch dog function 

I wish to inform this house that the contribution of CSOs and NGOs in the first function - of providing a supplementary function to government programmes - is highly unquantifiable. I wish to say that there is no system or a framework to quantify this immense contribution of this sub-sector (non-state actors) to this sector (agriculture). 

I think it is our responsibility, as we are thinking and planning, to walk the talk and come up with a systematic framework to capture what we – the non-state actors - are contributing. But you are aware, farmers have been giving testimonies. 

Therefore, Chair, because I also couldn’t personally touch (quantify the contribution of CSOs and NGOs) or we couldn’t personally touch as a smaller group we have focused so much of our assessment of the sector performance in this year under scrutiny within our second function – the watchdog role.

In terms of budget performance, I think this is an area that has been over emphasised. The figures (in the CSO presentation) are not different from the ones that the Ministry of Finance has presented. The sector that is employing the majority, agriculture, our performance has remained behind the national performance – those are the figures we could lay our hands on. 

In terms of performance of the externally funded projects, this is very, very critical as well. The information that we have been able to access indicates that 80 percent of the projects that were assessed by the Office of the Prime Minister in agriculture, they were found unsatisfactorily performing.

And therefore we have two proposals:

  • We need to strengthen the M&E (monitoring and evaluation) system of the Ministry to ensure that we streamline our planning, our outputs, our outcomes, and including other inputs. If this is the reason for the poor performance. As if there is always a reason for poor performance. 
  • We are also saying that we know the reward for poor performance. We should not hide our heads. If poor performance is found to be a result of incompetence, why are we wasting our time between now and our lunch? Let us use the performance contract system and when people are found on the other default end, you will bear with me, this end where I work, they terminate.

In terms of agricultural credit, I am going to run away from it, because it has already been over discussed. I just wish to say, there is nothing for us without us. We have learnt that MAAIF is not central in the process of developing the agricultural financing policy. It is our prayer that that is not the rumour. That nothing is going to be for MAAIF without MAAIF. So, can they also come at that table and take up that central role. 

In terms of agricultural insurance, this has also been over discussed, but we are aware that just a small fraction of the insurance companies have taken on this particular finance facility.  Therefore, in the interest of time, we are thinking, we are proposing that the insurance bill should also be expedited – the agricultural insurance bill be expedited. We also think that if we are going to take off in this area, at least 50 billion can be sufficient.

In terms of counter-funding, we have heard about the poor performance and inefficiency, but we have also learnt that there is no or there is limited attention given to the issue of counter-funding. These sectors, ladies and gentlemen, you know them better than we do and this is the data that our thoughts are based on, of the money that is required respectively for counter-funding. It is quite a big chunk of money. 

We are also aware of this particular circular like you do and we are only praying to you, please, can we add pressure to this institution – Ministry of Finance – and we include this counter-funding into our budgeting and planning such that we kick off our projects. Otherwise, when people come here to tell us that we are non-performers, they will never say that we were not given the counter-funding.

There is a lot of discussion that has been done on climate change. Chair, I wish to rush through it. Some of these things have been heavily discussed and we just wish, in the interest of time, to say the damages are enormous. We should stop talking about it and wake up to take action, because we cannot continue loosing what so far we have already produced and where we have already invested. 

We are saying, in terms of recommendations, that we need to see the master plan (for climate change) move into the operation plan, it is financed and then we see real investments taking place. We are also proposing that we need to popularize these action plans.

In terms of research, oh my God. Listening to my Director General of NARO (National Agricultural Research Organisation), yesterday, I think you have more problems of financing. I don’t know whether we have built a consensus in as far as our research agenda is concerned, but it is our prayer that we build consensus as a country on our research agenda. We reduce the burden to our research unit and get focused. And then we put money there and we say, we go, we go, mujje tulumbe (come we attack). 

In terms of production practices, Mr. Chair, I am trying to run, these are things that have been raised, but we wish to draw your attention to this kind of woman and others that are on the farm while we are here speaking English. Mr. Chair and this house, we, as a government and as a country, joined other countries under that declaration and we committed ourselves to reduce the use of the handheld hoe. 

We all know how much money we have given to the handheld hoe this particular financial year. We are saying, can we walk the talk to this declaration – collectively and individually and see ourselves slowly, slowly taking the handheld hoe to Kitante Road, because the last time I read that is where the Uganda Museum was (laughter).

Mr. Chair, there is this whole issue of land use. Since yesterday, we have rendered lip service to this particular area of land use. Ladies and gentlemen, every time you wish to engage people in the Ministry of Agriculture they don’t what to hear the word that follows land. The moment you say land, they say go to MLHUD (Ministry of Land Housing and Urban Development) . 

But land use is our role in this house. The moment we continue negating our responsibility on land use and we conveniently focus on discussing productivity, sijui job creation, we are very good liars and it is very dangerous to lying to oneself. It is better off if you are lying to another person. 

Members, you have all witnessed or you have lived in this kind of setting. The land that is available for agricultural production is reducing every after another day. The land use plans that we may be using now are older plans. And at the end of the day people come and say we are non-performers, we are not feeding this population, when we are negating this function of land use. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a whole dedicated session this afternoon, go and discuss land use and you come up with very serious propositions. 

I wish to talk about value addition and market access. The votes (budget) for value addition within our planning framework are scattered. Actually, a careless person would say: it seems we close our eyes, move the cursor and type the word value addition. It is all over, however, wherever in our planning framework. 

We need to define what we mean by value addition as the sector here and then focus our investment in this particular area. Otherwise, when it is scattered all over, however and there is not a particular point where we are going to hold for accountability, we go back to the other risk that I talked about of lying to ourselves. Those votes you have seen there were votes that we picked and are talking about value addition.

I wish to draw your attention for the remaining minutes to look at that woman. She is adding value, don’t joke - a very big task. She has to see all those grains off those cobs (maize cobs) and she is alone, in isolation. Not even a single chicken can come close to her and there are many such as her out there. And we are here talking about job creation and we are talking about increasing productivity. 

But a very interesting scenario is here – a small introduction of that small technology (maize sheller) has attracted so many people around it and there is less maize (unshelled) being visible – value addition. Mr. Chair, production practices, value addition, and attracting investment in agriculture – how organised and harmonised are our actions in terms of value addition? Increasing productivity that we are discussing here? And attracting investment within the agriculture sector? 

I just wish to draw your attention on the most recent scenario. That woman there might have been coming from the regional JASAR, she passed by where she had left her cow (Zebu small bodied cow) in the name of grazing and that is how it was grazing, they look very friendly, they know each other - my question was production, value addition and attracting investment – please keep that in mind. 

Now there is this one, this whole flock of cows (Ankole long-horned) coming from where going to where I don’t know, but many of us are very conversant with these divisions. How are we harmonising our increased production, then value addition, and attracting investment. I am going to ask a very serious question.

Now there is this one (Belgium Blue bull), all these pictures are just representative. If you look at this one, which has caused smiles to you, and then eventually this – this particular factory took 4-5 years in the offing and I wish to know on behalf of the sector am representing, when they were planning to build this factory, where are these beef animals that are going to be slaughtered? 

I talked to an animal breeder here and he told me that 3-4 years are enough to have stock to feed. Now this factory took 4-5 years being put together. We are interested in knowing whether we did the breeding or we were calculating the feasibility study on this factory was dependent on the other woman’s cow or on the other flock of cows that we saw which are largely not for slaughtering – they are for prestige.  

Am standing between you and your lunch, those are the figures of aflotoxins. Ladies and gentlemen, today we are being condemned for none-performance, today were are being condemned for little contribution to GDP (Gross Domestic Product), but trust me, yes, there is going to be a forum that is going to condemn us for feeding this population on poison (applause). 

One day we will convene and we will be condemned for feeding this country on poison. And when we are trying as civil society to understand who is responsible for this particular function, then they said there is the food and nutrition, then you go to the food and nutrition department, then they say we are only two and don’t know where we belong. We wait for that day and we shall discuss the repercussions.

Are these the kinds of markets that we are discussing? Are these the markets where we are creating jobs? Do we discuss market access while we are doing our planning? Time is not in my good favour. We made a number of recommendations. 

Let me speak to the subject of my heart. This is the whole issue that has been discussed since yesterday. Our question as civil society is what else can we add? This man here am sure is not a district agricultural officer, that one am pretty sure. This man you are seeing here is an agricultural extension worker from one of the NGOs called VEDCO that I represent here. 

This is the cost of sustaining an extension worker. It may sound very big, especially to minds that do not coordinate their aspirations. Since yesterday, we are talking about the value of extension and when we raise the actual value of sustaining an extension worker, people hold their heads and say ah that is too high, we cannot sustain it and they are looking for shortcuts to run to. 

(Interjection from the Minister of MAAIF, Hon. Ssempijja Vince Bamulangaki (MP): Mr. Chairman, the presenter should use diplomatic language). 

Oh I have been told to go back to my diplomatic language, I apologise. So, we are saying, we need 300 thousand Uganda shillings to sustain this man and he does the job we have been crying for since yesterday. We have been celebrating the recruitments, many of them that have been done; these remain salient issues to be dealt with:

  • The first salient issue is the structural issues in terms of managing performance between the directorates and local governments. How are we streamlining that? 
  • The other is the continuous funding to this particular service delivery.
  • The other is the budget allocation to agricultural extension and local government
  • Perhaps the integrations of the so many series of agricultural extension service providers – from private sector, NGOs, how are we integrating them?

Chair, let me, lastly, talk about food and nutrition. I have already talked about it and only to say there are structural issues that need to be addressed. Food and nutrition in MAAIF has remained a crosscutting issue and our worry it is cutting across. So, we need to streamline this particular function and give it clear outputs and budget lines.

In conclusion Chair, two conclusions:

  • We are crying for a systematic and structural management procedure to capture the contribution of non-state actors in this sector, such that we can fully give ourselves mutual accountability. 
  • We are crying for a post-JASAR and am turning my face to the other end where the ‘development partners’ were seated. We are crying for a post-JASAR and the post-JASAR intention is not to evaluate how wrong we did this, but how we have been dealing with the issues that we have talked about in these two days to actually synthesise them and inform the ministerial policy statement.

All that said and done, with apologies, I thank you for listening (applause).