Uganda: Govt releases sh50b for farmers

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By Catherine Bekunda

THE Government has released over sh50b to support agricultural production in rural areas, the chairperson of the Micro Finance Support Centre, Dr. Specioza Kazibwe, has said.

Farmers will be encouraged to form cooperatives in order to access the money without giving any collateral security.

The funds will mainly target groups engaged in primary production, agro-processing and marketing.

The money will also be used to buy tractors, irrigation machinery and build food stores for farmers.

Kazibwe decried the fact that micro-finance institutions have been cheating farmers by lending to them at 48% yet they get the credit from the Government at 9% per annum.

Starting next year, the funds will be directly given to the cooperatives instead of being released through micro-finance institutions.

"We have realised that the funds have not been going to the rural poor engaged in agriculture," Kazibwe said.

"Our people have been hoodwinked for a long time, that is why we are choosing to deal with the farmers directly."

She noted with concern that Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) are only present along highways and in trading centres and do not benefit the rural poor.

The Microfinance Support Centre has disbursed funds to over 300 SACCOs in the country and another 208 financial institutions, according to Kazibwe.

She said the funds would enable SACCOs enhance their growth, performance and provision of financial services to their members.

Kazibwe told journalists that farmer groups will receive training in SACCO management, technical and supervisory skills.

The centre is currently registering graduates in accounting and auditing to build the capacity of the farmers' groups.

The former vice-president also noted that the centre had prepared guidelines for managing SACCOs to reduce problems in the implementation of the programme.

Kazibwe denied allegations that only supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement were benefiting from the funds.

"I cannot deny that this is a government programme but we have given sh2.5b to the Lango Cooperative Enterprise in Lira district, which is located in an opposition stronghold, while the Nyabushozi SACCO (located in the NRM heartland) has hardly received any money," she explained.