Whereas a hoe is among the symbols in the emblem of the Democratic Party (DP) of Uganda, during Uganda’s presidential elections of 2016, the hoe was catapulted into mainstream national political debate by the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRMO). Presidential Candidate and also the President of Uganda, His Excellency President Yoweri Kagutta Museveni, pledged and fulfilled his pledge of distributing 18 million hoes countrywide. He argued that hoes would boost food security and incomes for small land owners and would gradually transform Uganda from an agrarian to an industrial economy by 2040. With the retail price of a hoe standing at 10 thousand shillings per piece, 18 million hoes would cost 180 billion shillings, which is about 30 per cent of Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries budget for Uganda’s fiscal year ending June 2016. (Source: Daily Monitor). Other analysts, however, priced a hoe at 25 thousand shillings per piece and therefore estimated the NRM’s hoe project to cost 450 billion shillings.
Candidate Museveni’s main challenger in the 2016 elections, Presidential Candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye, the flag bearer for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) countered the NRM’s hoe strategy and instead promised that if elected he would provide every sub-county with tractors to boost agriculture. He argued that the use of hoes is an outdated method of farming. He drew comparisons by reminding Ugandans that in the 1960’s, the first Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) government provided tractors for farmers at every sub-county. He mocked Candidate Museveni for retrogressively promising and distributing hoes to farmers fifty years later. (Source: Vision Group).
Analysts, however, put the feasibility and the viability of FDC’s tractor project to test. Assuming the hoe project costs 450 billion shillings and assuming that each tractor costs 120 million shillings, then using the same amount of money as the hoe project the tractor project would be able to procure 3,750 tractors. According to Uganda’s National Population and Housing Census 2014, there are over 7.3 million households in Uganda, which means that under the FDC tractor project 1,960 households would share one tractor. Add on the challenges of the logistical arrangements during busy farming periods and the costs of maintenance of a tractor that is shared by 1,960 households, the hoe project which provides on average two hoes per household becomes more attractive to voters.
NRM’s hoe project, on the one hand and FDC’s and UPCs tractor projects, on the other hand, certainly provide two very different perspectives to Uganda’s agriculture. The hoe project is more aligned to Uganda’s complex indigenous organic farming methods; while the tractor project is more aligned to the so-called ‘modern farming’ methods, that characteristically use non-organic farming methods – heavy reliance on artificial fertilizers, pesticides, fuel and more. Paradoxically, when one studies agricultural policy and programmes during the 30-year reign of President Museveni, one finds that the policy and programmes are not necessarily always consistent with the kind of agriculture that the hoe project represents. Most of the times, arguably, the policy and programmes are more consistent with the kind of agriculture that the tractor project represents. Hence, the question: what is agriculture in the context of Uganda?
The Kigo Thinkers have taken the time to debate this question and have articulated emerging thoughts of such debates in a write up that presents a social cultural context analysis of Agriculture in Uganda. The Kigo Thinkers invite you to read the context analysis and to join in the discussion.