EDITORIAL: Pay attention to the plight of farmers or face serious food crisis in near future

Saturday January 29 2022

Farmers in the country have faced the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the past two years.


Small-holder farmers in the country have faced the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the past two

All the pandemic-induced challenges, from lockdowns and curfews, which worsened pre-existing post-harvest challenges, to cargo delays and supply chain glitches which spiked up the cost of inputs and critical farming equipment.

Depressed demand and limited access to markets choked entire value chains of food crops, especially cereals, vegetables and fruits, to the point that some value chains are on the verge of being completely destroyed.

Farmers who produce vegetables like chili, French beans and others that are exported to foreign markets looked on as their crops went to waste in gardens as exporters stopped buying because the venture had become loss-making for them.

The height of the farmers' misfortunes in the country perhaps happened last year when the prolonged drought scorched crops in key food producing districts like Kirehe, Kayonza, Bugesera and others, leaving many farmers in losses. 

The situation left many farmers without food, seeds and very concerning without any drive to engage in any farming again. Farmers in Bugesera said up to seven sectors came out of last season with nothing completely.


The pandemic disruptions found when the ground had already been set by malfunctioning policies, many of which are detached from the farmers. The government has for instance over the years invested billions in the agenda to modernise agriculture, and has installed irrigation schemes especially in drought prone areas, but it failed to carry out an assessment of the capability of
farmers in those areas to use these facilities.

This has resulted in expensive but redundant irrigation facilities that are wasting away in many parts of the country without generating value for farmers. 

The government through its multiple implementation agencies ought to start listening to farmers, and then do a review of all its agricultural policies to see what is working and what is not, then devise what approach to take, but it all should start from going back to the drawing board.

The auditor general’s report in the past five years as been awash with accusations of wastage by agricultural agencies, but little ends up being done, yet farmers continue to face these chronic challenges.

Working closely with farmers lobby groups like Imbaraga to study the local value chains of the different food crops that we produce, finding out market entry challenges, quantities produced by which region and consumption cycles would go a long way to help farmers many of whom are throwing in the towel.

We have come to a point when food insecurity is almost certain in the coming years or months, there are already pockets of food insecurity in some parts of the country, which means action needs to be taken now to avert escalation in the coming years.