While the National Agriculture Extension Strategy set a target of 12,036 as minimum agriculture extension staff needed in the public sector for an effective agriculture revolution, the tentative plan to have at least 5,000 extensionists to boost farmer needs is yet to be realized.
Government has so far recruited 4,100 agriculture extension staff with more 900 staff positions yet to be filled in line with a tentative target that was set by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries in 2019 to offset the critical farmer extension service challenges where the ratio of the extension staff to farmer households will be scaled up to 1:1800.
State Minister for Agriculture, Fred Bwiino Kyakulaga believes that “Bukalasa will not only train the extensionists but should be able to provide opportunities for a population that does not meet the minimum academic qualifications for enrolment for the mainstream programs to get the farm skills through outreaches and farmer training. The activities of farmer guides are very critical.”
He remarked as he officiated at the Bukalasa Agriculture College’s 56th graduation where 673 persons graduated with Diplomas and Certificates in a virtual ceremony held at the college premises in Luweero District.
‘‘The skilling program introduced by government under the Uganda Skills Development that is at the forefront of expanding the infrastructure at the college to meet the needs of the modern farmer while boosting the capacity of the extortionists through hands-on training programs highlights the government strategy to boost and improve the farming sector, he said.
While the Covid-19 continues to have a negative impact on normalcy at the College, final year students sat exams.
‘‘We acknowledge the great interventions from the government including the upgrading of the College to a Centre of Agricultural Excellence. Government has implemented the Skills Development Project, most academic infrastructure have been renovated, upgraded farm infrastructure and retooled the staff are observable,” the College Principal, Gelvan Kisolo Lule said on September 10.
Meanwhile lack of clear policy guidelines after government transferred agriculture training institutions back to the Ministry of Education and Sports created several challenges that are not yet streamlined. The College is currently faced with a mismatching organization structure.
‘‘One of the salient matters within the organization’s structure,’’ administrators say, ‘‘was the reduction of staff salaries to Post-Primary teacher’s salary structure 4B that has demoralized a section of the staff and then government failure to fill vacant staff posts. The collage also has land wrangles emerging from encroachment and apparent grabbers. ’’
Prof Johnny Mugisha, the Chairperson Bukalasa Agriculture College Governing Council is optimistic that the institution will help transform farming in Uganda once such problems are addressed.