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Jinja Agricultural Fair widens farmers’ horizons

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The trade show at Jinja is the biggest event in Busoga and the eastern region. Most noticeable among exhibitors at the 16th Source of The Nile Agricultural and Trade Show that ran from July 22 to July 27 at Jinja was the Ugiran Tractor Manufacturing Company, a joint venture between Uganda and Iran. The company belongs to the National Enterprise Corporation, the commercial arm of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).

Also notable was Parambot Breweries, the manufacturers of Moonberg Lager beer. These two, exhibiting for the first time at the Agricultural show, attracted a lot of attention.
Ugiran was launched by President Museveni a few months ago with the aim of mechanizing agriculture to cause an economic revolution in the rural areas. Their products go for basically half the price of machinery on the open market.

Warid Telecom’s presence also attracted attention. Seed companies; Farm Input Care (Fica), Easeed and Victoria Seeds, and the sugar companies attracted show goers.
Soft drinks companies were present and like the brewers they simply made fun and noise. Although there are two brands of beer made from locally grown sorghum, neither Nile Breweries nor East African Breweries had demonstration plots for this sorghum. If it was there it could not be seen.

But brewers like Nile Breweries and East African Breweries competed more in noise pollution than impressing farmers on growing sorghum which both use in one of their beer brands.

Animal exhibitors were not allowed at this year’s show because Jinja District is under quarantine due to the foot-and-mouth disease.

President Yoweri Museveni opened the show on July 22 and although his speech dwelt more on politics and complaints against FM stations, he was there to inspire farmers, and acknowledge that they contribute more to the GDP. However, farmers wanted to hear that the President would reduce the interest rate on Bonna Bagagagawale funds to 1 percent. That rural roads would be fixed so that produce gets to the markets easily and that taxes on farm implements can be waived and that the government will set up tractor hire services in villages for farmers who cannot buy tractors to hire them. Animal farmers wanted to hear that the government has banned export of unprocessed food so that by-products used to make animal feeds can be available.

Kabaka Ronald Mutebi visited the show and advised agriculture graduates to start demonstration farms so that small scale farmers can learn from them.

All indications are that the show was successful as per the testimonies of exhibitors and visitors. This is the only national forum where farmers gather in one area to display farm produce and learn more about markets.

Mr Denis Twahika, the Marketing Manager of Ugiran, says he learnt that the problem of labour scarcity can be solved by availing tractors to farmers. He said they will impress upon the government to start tractor hire schemes in the villages so that poor farmers who cannot buy tractors can hire them.

But the biggest discovery for Mr Turyamanya is when he learnt that matooke can be processed into food products. He says a few years ago, Farm Africa exhibited solar driers which can dry matooke and other types of bananas. “I secured a drier and now we are able to dry matooke and process it into powder, juice, chips and other products,” Mr Turyamanya said. He added on that the government is planning to build a factory so that we can process food and sell to the World Food Programme.

Mr Joshua Ssebwato from Nakasongola District says shows like this help them gauge progress among their farmers. “We get information about markets, so that we produce what the market wants,” he said.

From Kamuli District, Mr Tom Zijja is happy that poultry products fetch a high price in urban areas. “That is an opportunity for the rural farmer to sell our chicken in the city,” he said.
It is perhaps for this reason that more people are attending the show.

Mr Charles Ogang, the vice president of the National Farmers Federation, the show organisers, said this year’s show has had the biggest turn up. It had about 300 local and international exhibitors and attracted more than 200,000 show goers. The number would have been higher if animal exhibitors had participated.

Mr Ogang said the UNFFE will next year start regional shows. Despite its success a lot needs to be done. The grounds have to be developed to the standards of the Uganda Manufacturers Association stalls at Lugogo in Kampala. When it rains the muddy grounds may put off some potential show goers who don’t have anywhere to get shelter since most exhibitors have open plots of land.

Facilities for conferences, canteens or restaurants are lacking. Currently food is sold in shacks under doubtful hygiene conditions. A lot needs to be done on sanitation, which facilities should be free for all since show goers pay to enter the grounds. More publicity needs to be done both on local FM stations, TVs and newspapers.

Although the music excites show goers, the organizers can set permissible levels so that exhibitors, like brewers, soft drinks and telecom sectors don’t turn the show into one big party.

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