By Mugobera Ronald,
The agriculture sector continues to be the mainstay of majority Ugandans. The sector employs over 69% of the country’s population, accounts for over 26% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country alongside tourism. Among other benefits of the agriculture include food security, low inflation as good performance of the agriculture sector keeps food prices low, among others.
Despite all these benefits, the sector remains engulfed in a multiple of challenges among which is the poor road network. This leads to inability of farmers especially in the rural areas to access markets in time which leaves them counting post-harvest losses. Majority of Uganda’s farmers reside in the rural areas where the roads are highly impassable especially during the heavy rain seasons. During the heavy rain seasons, rural road bridges are washed away and roads become impassable which disconnects farmers from potential market areas. This affects both the rural farmers and urban dwellers. For the rural farmers, failure to transport their agriculture produce to markets affects their income inflows while for urban dwellers, it leads to food scarcity due to limited supply to meet the urban food demand hence driving food prices up.
Farm gate prices in the face of the poor community road network are driven very low as middle men maximize on the vulnerability of the “immobile” rural farmers. Immobility of the rural farmers is caused by the impassable roads. Additionally, it affects the agro-industry sector as agricultural produce fail to get to the industries for processing.
Over the recent past years, government has invested highly in the country’s road sector-majorly roads connecting major towns and boarder areas which is commendable. However, the state of most community access roads where the rural farmers reside remain in a sorry state. Community access roads link rural farmers to market places and also facilitate movement of other rural community services and factors of production. With the poor state of the community roads, rural farmers remain excluded from Uganda’s road infrastructure investments.
Well maintained community access roads are needed to complement tarmac roads as this has other spillover effects beyond facilitating movement of the agriculture produce to market areas. These facilitate quality service delivery in other sectors for instance education and health sectors which among other factors aid in enhancing rural socio-economic transformation.
In addition to fixing community access roads there is need for government to address other challenges facing the Ugandan farmers in efforts to achieve rural economic transformation. These include among others limited access to credit, poor storage facilities and the climatic change vagaries.
Government through the Uganda Road Fund and the respective local governments should focus on improving the quality of rural community access roads so that these can complement the major tarmacked roads. This will not only benefit the rural farmers but also other positive development opportunities within the rural communities hence rural socio-economic transformation.
Economist-Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group