Govt. of Uganda, Do unto Rice what you did for Dairy

Uganda is a naturally gifted agricultural country. When you see the volumes of production under the largely subsistence approach that characterises our agriculture, the potential is immense. One sector whose potential has been proven is the Dairy Sector. It is therefore a pity that the successes registered on that journey have not been replicated for other agricultural sub-sectors.

In a this very well thought out article, Hon. Edward Baliddawa shares an opinion as to why Uganda needs to be deliberate about rice growing and it is within the same vein that I am reaffirming his point of view to show how there has either been negligence or a carefully crafted plan not to empower farmers in other sectors.


Milk production in the country experienced a nose dive in the 1970s all the way through the 1980s. We relied alot on imports especially of milk products like powder milk, cheese among others. The Dairy Corporation used to collect and process 20 million litres of milk per annum in 1972 but this dropped to an all time low of less than half a million litres in 1983.

When the Government came up with the Diary Master Plan of 1993, it was a key turning point closely followed by the enactment of the Dairy Industry Act, 1998. As a result of these interventions, the industry monopoly enjoyed by the Dairy Corporation was removed, allowing other private players to venture into processing.

The Dairy production in Uganda is dominated by small scale dairy farmers who contribute 80% to the overall milk production in the nation followed by 20.0% from the large scale dairy farms. Their production is mainly based on low input traditional pasture production systems making the country one of the few low cost producers in the world.

Liberalisation of the sector has seen annual production grow from 9.3 million litres in 1990 to 2.81 Billion litres in 2021, just 200 Million litres shy of the anticipated 3 Billion litres target. This shows the high prospects the sector holds.

Today, numerous value added products from milk are exported to markets as far as Europe, Asia and the Americas. Thanks to the focused commitment to revamp the dairy industry in Uganda.


In Uganda’s Agricultural Strategic Plan (ASSP) after cotton, coffee and maize, rice is ranked 4th as a strategic crop for improving household food and income security in Uganda. While, in terms of production, it is the second most important cereal after maize.
Just like Dairy farming, rice is grown mainly by smallholder farmers strewn across in Eastern, Northern and selected parts of Western Uganda.

Tending to a rice garden in the Doho Rice Scheme, Butaleja District

Despite having a production of 350,000MT of rice, Uganda remains a net importer. While we have a sizeable acreage of land under rice cultivation, our productivity per hectare pales in comparison with the immediate neighbors. As a country, our climatic conditions are favourable for rice growing and these among others include;

  • There is readily available fertile land
  • The two rainfall seasons that allow for the production of two crop cycles annually
  • Decent average annual rainfall averaging 1,200mm/year
  • Ideal temperature ranges

The challenges faced in the rice sub-sector are common knowledge and evolve around;

  • Over reliance on rainfed agriculture hence exposing rice farming to risks of drought
  • Limited access by the large small holder farmers community to improved seeds
  • Limited use of proper agronomic practices mainly due to lack of knowledge.
  • Poor post-harvest handling leading to low grain quality thereby lowering the potential income and limiting market access
  • Limited Mechanisation
  • Poor Supply Chain infrastructure like roads, proper transport for produce, warehouses etc
  • Inadequate access to finance with farmers paying upto 100% interest through the informal money lenders.

It should be possible to propel the rice sub sector to the next level and turn Uganda into a net exporter of rice within a decade if only commitment can be shown in addressing the already known pitfalls.

The opportunities should also be another highly motivating factor and these include;

  • The local and international demand for rice and its byproducts is growing steadily
  • Rice enterprises are more profitable at the various levels of the value chain compared to other cereals like maize, sorghum and finger millet.
  • There are relatively high gross margins across all stages of the value chain therefore making it easier to maximise returns
  • The rice byproducts market is still highly undeveloped.

Measures have been undertaken to promote the growth of the rice sub-sector but either they are being implemented in a haphazard or half hearted way.

You wake up one morning only to hear drums sounding for the importation of tax free rice with someone blaming inadequate production and the poor quality of locally produced rice as a reason for allowing in the tax free imports. The same team of minds worked so hard over the decades to ensure that the quantities and quality of dairy milk produced in western Uganda improved immensely including the mindset change that led the pastoralists settling down.

What was done for the dairy sub-sector can be done in the rice sub-sector by;

  • Encouraging the smallholder farmers to associate in cooperatives and benefit from scale
  • Setting up appropriate infrastructure in the rice growing areas to make produce transportation much easier
  • Setting up warehouses and encouraging their use
  • Promoting investment into value addition initiatives
  • Enforcing standards, among others.

It is therefore prudent that we use our success stories to uplift other sectors of the economy as opposed to addressing each with a silo approach. This therefore is a reminder call to the Ministry of Agriculture to handle all other key agriculture sub-sectors with the kind of attention that the Dairy Sub-sector got. Only then can we see a nationwide impact of progress reaching the bottom of the pyramid.

James Wire
Business & Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames

Your Excellency, PDM will not create 70 Million Jobs.

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Uganda, I salute you. Today I want to challenge an utterance you made during your speech on Labour day claiming that the Parish Development Model shall create more jobs than the number of citizens in the country and you put the figure at 70 Million.

I agree with your assertion based upon two premises that must go hand in hand. Proper implementation of the PDM project and Time. Without those two being fulfilled in tandem, you are blowing wind in a basket while expecting it to turn into a balloon.

The PDM has seven pillars that need to be addressed in tandem in order to achieve the promises made and for purposes of clarity, I will quickly highlight them below;
(1) Production, Storage, Processing and Marketing;
(2) Infrastructure and Economic Services;
(3) Financial Inclusion;
(4) Social Services;
(5) Mindset change;
(6) Parish Based Management Information System
(7) Governance and Administration.

However, due to ignorance or probably a desire to achieve cheap popularity, the promoters of the initiative are focusing on Pillar 5 of Finances. Everywhere you go, talk of PDM is narrowed down to Money and this has vulgarised the entire program. Right from the time the Rt. Hon Prime Minister started traversing the country popularising this initiative while gyrating from district to district, her core message was Money is coming. Most Hon Members of Parliament also caught the bug and started reciting the same chorus.

Lately, when you hear complaints about PDM, they evolve around, not receiving money. Even when money is received it is akin to a delivery for sports betting jackpot winners. At this rate, its intended aim of creating wealth, employment and increasing household incomes will never be achieved at a macro level. The most we shall boast of are pockets of achievers who are even largely outside the intended target group of the poorest of the poor.

You so casually quoted an estimated 7 million households participating in this initiative with each creating at least ten jobs hence the derivation of the 70 Million jobs. With all due respect Sir, there is a difference between Something to do and a Job. How I wish your advisors took time to clarify more on that.

The other shortcoming in your speculative assumption is the desktop approach used that many failed business people have also engaged. They simply sit at a computer, fill in their expectations in a spreadsheet and come out smiling with grandiose summed up figures that only achieve the goal of massaging an uninformed mind. This is the other mistake your advisor(s) made.

For your information sir, I am an Agricultural Economist who also has a Masters in Business Administration and a fully fledged Agribusiness entrepreneur. So I speak from a point of not only academic knowledge-ability but also practical exposure in the agricultural space. Do not regard me as a mere social media heckler. I also participated in the pilot project of the PDM in Eastern Uganda.

Where are the shortcomings;

The fusion of the NRM party structures with the Government in its implementation. I was taken back when upon reaching Butaleja district and we had to kick off the work, instead of heading to the district officials, we had to meet the NRM district chairman. So many other activities down the chain were organised by NRM party functionaries and the district technocrats were only expected to come in during trainings. This caused some rift in the implementation and as a result greatly compromised effective output.
Clarity is required on whether this is a party or government initiative.

The Parish was designed to play the key role of project implementation. However, the current legal regime does not empower them to have the kind of responsibilities that this project requires of them. Over time, this is likely to create pockets of conflict.

While money was released to recruit Parish Chiefs allover the country for this initiative, most are severely incompetent to carry out the expected roles and on top of that lack even the basic infrastructure like offices to operate.

There are numerous questions around the voluntary Parish Development Committees that are required to shoulder the PDM implementation responsibility. There seems to be a clash with the work that sub counties do.

Technical officers and Political leaders seem to be speaking different languages especially when it comes to the selection of beneficiaries. So much influence peddling is taking place and I recall a case of a top female politician in one of the districts in the East that fought hard to be included as a PDM beneficiary.

The SACCO creation is highly bloated with beneficiaries being herded like goats to form a grouping that quickly gets to be called a SACCO, given little or no training at all on what and how they will operate and then made to sign papers with a promise to receive Money!!!! There are also cases of people paying money to middlemen in order to be listed as SACCO members with the ultimate goal of getting money.

The services these SACCOs are meant to handle are a multitude and require highly secialised skillsets if any benefit is to come out of the move. Extension services, production, bulking and marketing, accountability among others are activities the SACCOs have to engage in and not any Tom, Dick and Harry can undertake these activities.

The CAO as per the model has been made the Accounting Officer of the Parish Revolving Fund while the questionable Parish Chief is both the accounting officer and administrative head at the parish level. Considering the huge sums of money to be dispensed, we are readying ourselves for another Mabaati scandal of gargantuan proportions.

The model is conspicuously silent on the private sector participation with the assumption that the value and supply chains can be effectively handled by the PDM organisations solely. This is going to lead to unnecessary duplication of resources and unintended failures as a result of inexperience.

These among others are the reasons I want to let you know that you were misguided into thinking that the Parish Development Model will generate 70 Million new jobs.

I Submit.

James Wire
Business & Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames