Uganda seeks to feed the world through the new Fertilizer Policy

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• Maize production to hit 6.4m tons from 2.6m tons

• National coffee production for exports to increase from 3.1m bags to about 8 million bags

• The projection is that the success of NFP will have positive ramifications on the environment

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By Moses Kaketo

The farmers in Uganda have over mined the soils to such level that they cannot generate the volumes of produce they used to record a decade ago. This has been worsened by drought and floods as a result of climate change. A study by Kawanda Research Center reveal that Ugandan soils need up to 30kg of nutrients per hectare per year to regain lost fertility.

The situation is that bad that agriculture is growing at 1.5 annually against the population, which is growing at 3.2 percent annually. As such, Ugandan has turned into a net importer of Food. The latest census report revealed that more than 4m Ugandans sleep hungry.

To reverse the situation, the government through the ministry of Agriculture has drafted the National Fertilizer Policy (NFP). The policy seeks to elevate the soils to a level of fertility that will support agriculture. The policy will also support the production, importation, management and oversee the knowledge extension on fertilizer application to the farmers. The policy was reviewed by a team at the Economic Research Policy Center.

Ugandan soils have been described as having one of the highest rates of nutrient depletion in sub-Saharan African estimated at about 80kg of nutrients per year. Uganda is also one of the lowest users of fertilizers in the world, taking in about 1-2kg of nutrients per hectare per year.

Through the NFP, the government plans to produce enough for consumption and surplus together with cash crops for exports. This plans is in line with Vision 2040, which envisions the transformation of the country from a predominantly peasant and low-income country to a competitive upper middle-income country by 2040.

According to the authors of the policy, the increase in fertilizer uptake will result in increased productivity and this will be key to promoting country’s exports.

The policy also has a direct link to national efforts to contribute to reduced malnutrition, high incomes, as well as supporting export of strategic agricultural commodities.

Indicative computation show that considering the example of maize, which is one of the country’s priority crops.

Without fertilizers, a farmer gets an average of 2,400 kg per hectare on a medium fertility soil, with the application of fertilizers at 50kgs NPK, the yield is expected to increase to at least 6,000kg per hectare. This would increase national maize production from about 2.6m metric tonnes to 6.4m tons. This will double the gross revenue from Ugx. 1,786 billion to Ugx. 4,4645 billion.

For coffee, a strategic export crop, application of 50kg of nutrients per hectare-will result into an increase in nation coffee production for exports from 191 thousand metric tons( 3.1m bags) to 478 thousand tons ( about 8 million bags). The income associated with increase in coffee production will result in increased revenue from Ugx 134 billion to Ugx. 334 billion.

Speaking at the validation workshop at Protea Hotel recently, Mr. Drake Rukundo-the NFP senior Consultant noted that the policy was developed in consonance with the aspirations and commitments Uganda is signatory to under the Comprehensive Africa Development Programe (CAADP), the Abuja 2006 Declaration and the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2025.

He stressed that the policy is also important for other policies in providing the much-needed complementary and holistic growth.

For instance, the National Seeds Policy, National Coffee Policy and the Draft National Agriculture Extension Policy and other policies will premise their projections on the current and potentially better soils in the future.

Mr. Rukundo told stakeholders that based on the interviews he held with various key stakeholders, the operationalization of the NFP is poised to generate more positive than negative impacts if the strategic plans are implemented with sufficiency of resources financial, logistical, technical and human.

He urged that the projected bounce in farm productivity and harvest will more than double from the same land due to boosted soil fertility, increased labour productivity, more resources at household level afford them to hire labour to attend to other farms, increase in farmer education as part of the agricultural extension service as well as new capital formation.

Rukundo says, the impacts will also be non-momentary.

‘ ‘ As more is produced, more farmers will focus on farm production rather than a sprawl of agriculture-which is most cases includes promotion of intensification due to population pressure on resources such as including wetlands, forests etc.’’ he says.

The projection is that the success of this policy will have positive ramifications on the environment.

According to the National Environmental Management Authority- the more the country adopted better farming practices, the better it will be for the environment. As more farmers use fertilizers, crop yields on the same operated area will increase and sustained, rather than creating a sprawl into new land openings, which is the status quo at the moment.

The Regulatory Impact Assessment also notes that as farm yields improve, farming households will begin to look at better seed varieties, better breeds for maximizing not just the potential brought about by more fertile soils but from improved seeds as well. The issue of expansion in genetics for a number of seed varieties will be boosted by higher farm productivity as demand for better varieties is projected to increase.

Associated risks of the policy

The current level of farmer knowledge on the application of both organic and inorganic fertilizer is very low-at about 32 percent. Some of the matter especially on the inorganic have potential to cause bodily harm if not used in the right prescribed volumes.

There is also limited knowledge on the level of deficiency of nutrients in the soil. It is widely believed that the majority of farmers have never done soil testing on their farms. There is possibility that farmers may miss-apply the fertilizer and fail to match nutrient input with site-specific deficiencies. The result will be lower yields.

The policy was developed through process that was highly consultative and obtained views from farmers, community leaders, district technical and political leaders at national and regional levels. The process also included consultations with the private sector, non-state actors as well as technical and political leaders at the ministry and agency levels.

The Policy will be presented to cabinet and Parliament in the coming weeks.

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