Ugandans Increasingly Benefitting from China’s Agricultural Initiatives

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By Moshi Israel

Development assistance comes in many forms and at various levels. It can be extended to governments and its institutions, to private institutions and to local communities. China has been involved in all forms of development assistance to Uganda.

It is important for local communities to benefit from development aid because they are at the center of national development strategies. The local communities in Uganda largely depend on Agriculture to make ends meet. It is the reason why Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy. Agriculture is a lucrative venture in Uganda despite obvious obstacles. The sector employs 70% of the population, contributes half of Uganda’s export earnings and a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP).  Therefore, investment in local communities and in Agriculture is paramount to shaping Uganda’s economic development.

The Chinese government and private sector are having a profound imprint on Uganda’s progress to a middle-income country. China’s extended hand of friendship has touched the very core of Ugandan society and testimonies from the beneficiaries are everywhere for all to see.

China has strengthened its already cordial relationship with Uganda by increasing its presence in the country and injecting much needed aid into the very backbone which keeps Uganda’s economy standing straight. Uganda has received project aid in form of interest free loans and grants from her Chinese friends.  Projects like Kibimba and Doho rice schemes, are one of many initiatives that validate Uganda-China Partnership.

Rice farming has been a leading project of interest by china in Butaleja district in Uganda. Here, the local communities attest to milestones achieved due to direct collaboration with China.  A number of local farmers have benefited from hybrid rice farming in the district. Rice farming has radically shifted the fortunes of local farmers and enriched the community. Locals have attested to being elevated from absolute poverty. Some have been able to build homes, educate their children and purchase previously unaffordable luxuries. Women are also increasingly contributing to household incomes by participating in rice farming. China has also purchased state of the art machinery to further modernize farming in the area. This machinery is set to arrive in Butaleja district anytime. Farmers are also supplementing rice farming with the growing of fruits such as mangoes and water melons for commercial purposes. Butaleja has become a reputable hub for rice and is supplying their products to other regions.

Additionally, as they say, one good turn deserves another. The best practices of rice farming in Butaleja have the potential to be replicated in other regions of Uganda which would boost the Agricultural sector nationally. Besides, some farmers in Butaleja already export their products to neighbouring Kenya.

Then there is the tripartite partnership Uganda has with China and FAO. The three partners plan to implement phase three of the FAO China-Uganda South-South Cooperation (SSC).This three-year $12m (Shs44b) project would benefit over 9000 farmers. The project aims at improving crop, livestock and fish production. Consequently, 3000 women, 1,000 livestock farmers and 100 fish farmers in 30 districts are set to gain from technical instruction and knowledge-sharing with Chinese experts. According to the project head, Mr. Zhang Xiaoqiang, the beneficiaries will be selected in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and district agriculture officials. Furthermore, during the event at the Kajjansi Aquaculture Research and Development Center, H.E the Ambassador, Zhang Lizhong, assured Ugandans that the project is one of many vital collaborations between Uganda and China, and the latter will continue to support Uganda by sending experts to share knowledge with local farmers.

In the long term, thousands of youths and women will have improved livelihoods by earning an income without overcrowding the already bloated formal job market that has left many Ugandans frustrated.

China has also aided in the setup of Wakawaka fish landing site and] Kajjansi Aquaculture Training Center. Coffee, fish, cotton, tea and various food products are among Uganda’s major exports. The country is a food basket in the region.

China has a very good eye for opportunities and identifying the agriculture sector of Uganda as a major recipient of development assistance is a wonderful exhibition of their mature diplomacy and tact. This is how local communities tell the difference between serious allies and opportunists. A true friend seeks to improve those areas about you that are vital for your progress. This is what the agriculture partnership between Uganda and China is yielding.

Once, every local farmer can access modern ways of farming and implement them to their logical end, then Uganda is on its merry way to unprecedented economic development. Uganda’s tax base is limited due to rampant poverty. However, if the common people can utilise their naturally endowed land and earn a living with a decent income, then the tax base dramatically changes for the best and the country at large benefits.

The partnership between Uganda and China underlines one important tenet; there is no national development without uplifting local communities. It is good news that China understands and appreciates this fact.

The Writer is a Research Fellow with Development Watch Centre




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