By Esther Mufumba

Published: 3rd Feb 2016

The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) embraced the Single Spine Agriculture Extension system in September 2015 with intentions of addressing public outcry from farmers on the state of Agricultural Extension Services in the country as well as fusing extension services into the line ministry.  
The system facilitates farmers, their organizations and other market actors to knowledge, information and technology; interactions with their partners in research, education, agribusiness and relevant institutions assisting them to develop their own technical, organizational and managerial skills and practices.

Creation of the Single spine extension system emerged after NAADS was restructured into a lean secretariat to handle strategic interventions and promotion to value addition technologies as opposed to extension services.
In Uganda, Agriculture is recognized as core for the economic growth and poverty reduction since the sector largely employs 60% of the poor and marginalized. Farmers gladly celebrated to learn of a coordinating center for all Agriculture extension services in the country. MAAIF established a Directorate of Agriculture Extension Service whose priority is to provide extension services especially to small holder farmers.  However, this Directorate does not have enough capacity with the limited number of staff recruited to offer services to farmers.  
The BFP 2016/17 has no clear wage bill for operation of Agriculture Extension system implying that those recruited at the Local Government level will be redundant and will remain in the sitting mode like their predecessors. Currently, extension services have failed to reach majority of the farmers with statistical estimates at 14% and most recently reduced to 7% which is remarkably low for a country whose population is largely agrarian.  As a commitment to implement Single Spine Extension system, MAAIF is undertaking a critical process of developing the National Agriculture Extension Policy & Strategy that will provide strategic guidance, Principles and objectives of the Agriculture Extension System aimed at transforming the Agriculture sector.

UDN recommendations:

• Uganda can only realize Single spine Agriculture Extension system if MAAIF concentrates on working towards increasing production and productivity especially through inclusive extension services and developing a results oriented culture.

• The Directorate of Agriculture Extension Services should be fully staffed for effective implementation of their mandate.