23 July 2007

National Agricultural Fair

Last week Uganda had its annual agricultural fair at the Jinja showgrounds. Joseline accompanied me to combat the vendors thinking that I was going to buy every product available there. Overall, it was a great experience. My purpose in going was to find local swine and poultry breeders for purchasing additional livestock for the Bethany Village farm. I was also on the hunt for tomato cages for my personal garden. No luck on the tomato cages, but I was successful on finding the swine and poultry breeders. I also was excited to talk with the director of the national livestock genetic database. It is very uncommon (okay I have yet to meet a breeder) that keeps records of his animal's health and production. So buying livestock is a giant leap of faith in what you are getting for your money. The goal of the genetic database is to provide quality semen from local animals, but with all the necessary records to make an informed decision. Considering that the cost of foreign livestock semen is 40,000 UGX ($25 USD), the price keeps it out of reach of many farmers. This new database would significantly lower the cost of quality semen, but also insure that you are getting the hardiness of the local livestock. Most foreign livestock requires significant care and investment for them to withstand the onslaught of bugs and pathogens in Uganda.

My other observation was that there is a significant amount of hybrid seed available - quicker growing, resistant to bacterial diseases, higher yields, etc. Put as is common here, this seed is not available to local farmers either due to cost or poor distribution. Last week there was an article in the paper about the government providing several hundred kilos of some of this hybrid seed to Gulu IDP camps and it being totally fake seed. It never germinated. So, it seems that there is a need for an oversight community to approve seed for sale as being viable and genuine.

I am learning that there are a lot of agricultural improvements and new technologies available here, if you have the money and connections. Most improvements are hoarded by the government organizations that received the technology as some part of an aid package. And this new improvement benefits the pockets of the government workers, but rarely benefits the citizens of Uganda that truly need it.

1 comment:

KELLY said...

Buy a PIG!