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Agricultural Cooperative Moves to Establish Mechanization Hubs in Northern Uganda :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Agricultural Cooperative Moves to Establish Mechanization Hubs in Northern Uganda

Robert Achac Okok, the Chairperson of NUTOFA says the agricultural mechanization hubs will be stationed in the regional cities of Lira, Gulu, and Arua while another hub will be established in Moroto Municipality catering for the Karamoja sub-region.
Heavy duty farm machines at Atiak Sugar Factory in Atiak Subcounty, Amuru District.

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An agricultural cooperative in Northern Uganda has drawn plans to set up agricultural mechanization hubs in a move aimed at bringing closer mechanization services for smallholder farmers in the region.

While Northern Uganda is considered blessed with fertile arable land, access to mechanized equipment remains a big challenge due to high costs for many farmers who still rely on rudimentary tools for subsistence farming.

Ben Openy Latim, a farmer and the LCIII Chairperson of Got Apwoyo Sub-county in Nwoya district says many farmers like him are finding hardship in opening up their land due to limited access to mechanized agricultural inputs.

According to Latim, in his Sub-county alone, there are just about two tractors for hire which aren’t usually enough for the many farmers to easily access and use for opening their farmlands.

“When you want to hire a tractor here, you will only be lucky to get it because the owner wants you to have it. You can’t get the tractor at the right farming time because they are few and this is a problem for us farmers,” says Openy.

Tom Kayira Acire, another farmer in Pobar Parish, Tegot Kwera village in Agoro Sub-county, Lamwo district says farmers in his area are incapacitated to open large farmland because they lack mechanized agricultural inputs.

For instance, Acire says this farming season, his clan members only managed to open 50 acres of land for growing sim-sim yet if they had access to cheap agricultural inputs for hire, they would have opened larger farmland.

According to Acire, for farmers to hire a tractor for an acre of land in Agoro Sub-county, one has to pay 120,000 shillings which he says is very expensive for smallholder farmers.

“Most smallholder farmers are using anima traction to open land because it is cheap but this can't promote commercial agriculture. We ask the government and partners in the agricultural sector to subsidize the cost of agricultural machines or even bring them closer to us,” Acire told Uganda Radio Network on Tuesday.

To address these challenges, Northern Uganda Tractor Owners, Operators, mechanics, and Farmers Sacco, (NUTOFA), an agricultural cooperative in the region is committing to up six mechanization hubs.

Robert Achac Okok, the Chairperson of NUTOFA says the agricultural mechanization hubs will be stationed in the regional cities of Lira, Gulu, and Arua while another hub will be established in Moroto Municipality catering for the Karamoja sub-region.

He says the hubs will act as a one-stop center for easy access to mechanized agricultural equipment by farmers in Northern Uganda to boost crop productivity in a region where mechanization services are scarce.

In Gulu City, NUTOFA has already acquired a four-acre piece of land in the Bardege-Layibi division, thanks to donations by the Gulu City Woman legislator Betty Aol Ocan where the pilot project will commence.

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Achac noted that the hubs will provide services ranging from subsidized hire and sales of various agricultural mechanization inputs, demonstration services, and contract farming for smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda.

He says the establishment of the hubs will be facilitated by their 720-strong registered members in the cooperative in phases and will bring together a consortium of agricultural service providers to offer the needed agricultural services.

Already onboard the project according to Achac is Engineering Solutions Uganda, the distributor of TAFE tractors and a dealer of Massey Ferguson tractors and equipment.

The agricultural cooperative estimates that the pilot mechanization hub in Gulu City alone could cost about 20 billion shillings with a total of 120 billion shillings required to set up all the six hubs in the Northern region.

Achac notes that the main hubs will function along with mini centers set up right from sub-county, parishes, and village levels where light farming equipment for hire and sales will be easily accessible to the smallholder farmers.

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Nwoya District Agricultural Engineer, Tabu Justine says the lack of a major agricultural mechanization hub in the region is a big hindrance to farmers accessing mechanization services.

Tabu says while the district has many tractor drivers, there are just a handful of operators and notes that the establishment of the one-stop hubs will help in training operators for proper maintenance and easy access to farming equipment.

“Most farms in the district are very far, it takes a lot of time for farmers to access repair services in case their machines break down. This is a welcome idea and will help our smallholder farmers,” says Tabu.

At least 1,000 smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from the mechanization hub in the first phase of the project.

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