Gen. Salim Saleh urges DCOs, Agricultural Officers to report on farmers’ demands

MBARARA – Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a Salim Saleh, the Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) has urged District Commercial Officers (DCOs) and Agricultural Officers including his own army officers in OWC to always report issues affecting farmers.

Akandwanaho said this on Tuesday while opening the two-day investment symposium held at Kakyeka Stadium, in Mbarara City.

The third National Investment Symposium of its kind was celebrated under the theme; “The contribution of financial innovation to the resilience of the economy for sustained growth.” It attracted more than 20 companies, cooperatives, bankers, agencies and other private institutions in Ankole sub-region.

Some of the exhibitors included; Ankole Coffee Producers Union, Manyakabi Area Co-op Ltd, Kazire Health Products Ltd, Bishop Stuart University, Rwentanga Farm School among others.

During his opening remarks, Akandwanaho was concerned about Commercial Officers and Agriculture Officers who are failing to reveal farmers’ demands hence challenging commercialized agriculture and industrialization.

His concerns come at a time when Patrick Musinguzi, the District Commercial Officer, of Isingiro district failed to give a regional report about Ankole’s statistical data on agriculture and industrialisation.

“How many maize millers do you have in the region and how many coffee hullers do you have in the region? What are the problems faced? You see in Ankole you don’t have products to influence because this is UDB; they are capitalizing now at a level of one billion? So, they came here to look for business and you are now giving them stories?” OWC Chief Coordinator said.

Akandwanaho challenged leaders to always focus on people’s demands rather than telling stories in their areas.

“This was a chance for the people of Ankole and that’s what I was telling the organizers first to provoke the locals to come up with their demands but now you can tell that the effective demand is zero,” added.

He furiously warned the national symposium organizers never to invite him again when they don’t have to raise people’s demands.

“Organizers, I am happy that you have persisted with these symposiums but this will be the last symposium I will come to, where there is no demand. We went to Arua and leaders came with dreams then in Gulu it was just imaginations, now I have come to Mbarara and I am listening to stories?” the bush war army officer emphasized.

Akandwanaho further challenged the people of Ankole to focus on industrialisation to address unemployment in the region rather than concentrating on subsistence farming.

“The population of Ankole is 4.2 million and they are settled on land equivalent to 6000 square miles which is not expanding yet the population is expanding. So, if you don’t go into labour intensive activities and manufacturing, people will have no jobs,” said Akandwanaho.

“Ankole is at a stage where there is serious production but with little processing and in our opinion, we require more than four banana processing plants,” he added.

Prof Elijah Mushemeza, MP Sheema North Constituency also challenged the government to focus on local industries and processors to empower the forthcoming Parish Development Model (PDM) program.

“With this mobilization we are doing in Parish Development Model, if we are not careful, people are going to surprise us with commodities and we shall have no market but if they are processed, they can be kept for some time,” Mushemeza said.

Dr Ramathan Ggoobi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development encouraged government agencies and ministries to embrace automated procurement processes to track corruption tendencies.

“We are working on E-Government procurement modernity and by next year about 50 of the central government ministries, departments and agencies are going to be procured online to reduce inefficiencies we see in government,” Ggoobi emphasized.

He says, the e-monitoring system will also cross to education and health across the country to ensure that drugs and other equipment which the government buys are not stolen.

“We have also developed a platform to implement the e-monitoring of schools and health centres where I think some people have not been doing it perfectly.”

In his closing remarks, Ggoobi said the government is committed to providing different stimulus packages to recover the country’s economy from Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are implementing a stimulus package to boost aggregate demand and also support businesses to restart and recover. A total of 260 billion have been deployed through Emyooga as well as Shs 77 billion through SACCOs targeting the financially excluded vulnerable groups and active poor through Microfinance Support Centre.”

However, Ggoobi is optimistic that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 3% since 2020 and will recover by the year 2023/24.

“We have lost nearly 3% of GDP growth in each of the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is projected to grow at 3.8% by June this year. The economy is destined to recover its free pandemic growth of above 6% beginning 2023/24,” the Permanent Secretary added.

Speaking to some of the exhibitors, Sedrack Atuhaire, Coordinator for Research and Projects at Kazire Health Products Ltd pledged to implement whatever he has learnt from the symposium.

“This symposium was worth it and the fact that we do value addition which is agro-processing, it was an opportunity for us to come together and we look forward to the operationalisation of the deliberations in a practical way that we shared together.”

However, Clare Kabakyenga, Manager Area Women’s Cooperative Enterprise (ACE) in Isingiro district says, the turn up was low as people were blocked from accessing the premises.

“I was happy to be part of the symposium, but we did not sell our products because the turn up was poor. People were blocked from accessing the premise on security grounds but being an exhibition next time, it should be a free access event to showcase our products.”

The Uganda Investment Symposium concept was launched in 2019 with an inaugural symposium held in the West Nile region and a subsequent one held in the Rwenzori sub-region.

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