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Operation Wealth Creation Trapped in Operational Challenges- Gen Saleh

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Gen. Saleh says the national programme continues to run in the same mode that has caused 25 operational failures identified by the National Agricultural Advisory Services-NAADS secretariat as major obstacles threatening the success of the program.
Operation Wealth Creation Was Introduced To Transform Agriculture by Increasing Production Among others

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Operation Wealth Creation-OWC, a government initiative for improving household incomes, is still stuck in operational challenges that are affecting its smooth implementation.

OWC Chief Coordinator General Caleb Akandwanaho (Salim Saleh) says the program must undergo an urgent transformation in order to sustain its objective and focus.

Gen. Saleh says the national programme continues to run in the same mode that has caused 25 operational failures identified by the National Agricultural Advisory Services-NAADS secretariat as major obstacles threatening the success of the program.

Some of the failures threatening the biggest civil-military operation in the country are scanty and weak farmer groups and institutions, late delivery of inputs to farmers, delivery of low quality and quantity of inputs, the high mortality rate of planting materials and breeding stock attributed to drought and poor management.

Others include dumping of inputs by suppliers to farmers who do not need them, inadequate policy framework and regulation in Agriculture to punish and regulate counterfeit inputs as well as supplying wrong inputs to wrong ecological zones.

The obstacles are contained in a paper presented to stakeholders at a regional review meeting held in Gulu district. According to the paper, the operational challenges and gaps were re-affirmed in the Office of the Prime Minister's report on rapid impact assessment conducted on the first phase of operation wealth creation.

The paper recommends five new strategies to refocus the programme to success including implementation of regional logistics hub and e-voucher systems to eliminate physical cash in procurement processes.

The other he says is the need for Operation Wealth Creation to adopt a new administrative structure that is responsive to the needs and tasks of phase two of the operation, as outlined by Colonel John Charles Anywar, the director in charge of Tea, Coffee and Cocoa under Operation Wealth Creation.

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Col Anywar says the Directorate of Operation Wealth Creation has developed a number of reforms aimed at addressing procurement gaps affecting the intervention. He says the first is the introduction of regional logistics hubs equipped with 35 pre-qualified input distributors to undertake distribution of inputs.

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The other he says is the introduction of e-voucher system in order to eliminate monetary transactions.

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Pius Kasajja Wakabi, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries acknowledged the challenges saying his ministry is doing all it takes to address the challenges.

Kasajja said new diseases are emerging with global climatic or weather changes. "The most recent epidemic in the country was the fall armyworm and other pests. The ministry will continue to ensure that appropriate pesticides are available in the market at affordable prices, through among others partnership with the private sector", he stated.

The Executive Director National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Dr Samuel Mugasi told the meeting that the programme has registered a number of successes especially in enabling subsistence farmers to access critical agricultural inputs that are essential for increasing production and productivity.

He, however, says the program has encountered structural and operational challenges that may have hampered the realization of desired outcomes. "To enhance the performance of the program, a review process has commenced helping understand what worked, what did not and why, in order to derive lessons for improvement" he stated.

Operation Wealth Creation

Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) is a government intervention that was launched by President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 with an aim of improving household incomes after several government interventions failed to create tangible impact.

So far implemented over three different financial years, the program is Uganda's biggest civil-military poverty alleviation operation ever implemented. It has four major implementation phases including initiation (phase I), stabilization (Phase II), consolidation (Phase III) and handover and exit (Phase IV).

Phase I focused on mobilization and sensitization of farmers for a mindset change in order for them to change from subsistence to commercial farming, stop land fragmentation and adopt recommended agronomical practices such as high yielding and high-value crops among others. It is currently in the stabilization phase.

25 Operational Challenges and Gaps affecting OWC

The paper by Gen. Salim Saleh outlines the following as operational challenges and gaps affecting implementation of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC).

1.     Delivery of low quality and quantity of inputs.

2.     Late delivery of inputs to farmers.

3.     The high mortality rate of planting material and breeding stock attributed to drought and poor management.

4.     Delivery of inputs to wrong agro-ecological zones.

5.     Poor Post-harvest handling and processing.

6.     Inflation of the price of inputs especially livestock.

7.     Supply of "air" or nothing.

8.     Beneficiaries connive with suppliers and sign for technologies without a receipt in exchange for money.

9.     Some sub-county chiefs toss farmers around during the distribution exercise to frustrate them with the aim of sharing the inputs with a few.

10. There are conmen who ask people for money claiming to be working for operation Wealth Creation.

11. Inputs are dumped by suppliers to farmers who do not need them.

12. Signatures of OWC officers are forged by suppliers and other actors.

13. There is some collusion between suppliers and other actors in the supply chain.

14. Falsification of documents at various levels.

15. Some OWC officers have generally not been effectively involved in the input distribution process.

16. Duplication of input supply activities by different organizations e.g politicians, religious leaders, and agencies. This has led to reporting of different figures of inputs delivered by the various agencies.

17. Some chief administrative officers (CAOs) are too busy and they hand over their roles to junior officers who are easily intimidated by politicians.

18. Extension workers have been recruited and facilitated but are not visible on the ground.

19. The existence of scanty and weak farmer groups and institutions.

20. Climate change and lack of water for agricultural production and irrigation.

21. No proper plan for evacuation, bulking and marketing of produce.

22. Low produce prices due to the exploitative behaviour of middlemen or traders.

23. Land degradation and fragmentation.

24. Districts demand inputs but sometimes there are cases when NAADS sends what is not on their demand list.

25. Inadequate policy framework and regulation in Agriculture. For instance, the Policy on the regulation of counterfeits and saboteurs is not in place. Current penalties on counterfeit encourage the vice. The policy should emphasize destroying counterfeits.

Recommended Strategies for refocusing OWC.

1.     Continued Deployment of Officers in areas with gaps: 

The paper by the chief coordinator of operation wealth Creation Gen. Salim Saleh further states that some areas requiring deployments are in new districts, new constituencies and areas where officers have passed on or have been discontinued. Currently, there are no resources for allowances and logistics to support the deployments.

2.     Formation of farmer groups:

This began in Phase I and shall be continued in phase 2. It is hoped organizing farmers will translate into improved farmer management and collective bargaining power for better prices against exploitative farm gate prices.

3.     Water for Production:

According to the paper, input on water for production by NAADS/OWC, Ministry of Water and Environment and other private sector players is still currently minimal and not felt on the ground. "OWC shall continue to identify areas within the country that need immediate water attention.

4.     Implementation of Regional Logistics Hub and e-voucher system.

The regional logistics hubs are intended to serve as one-stop centres for all logistics supported by OWC (certified seeds, pesticides, market linkages, extension services, etc). All farmers will be required to their farm inputs directly from these hubs.

5.     Need for Operation Wealth Creation to adopt a new administrative structure that is responsive to the needs and tasks of phase two of the operation.