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Understanding Minister Karooro’s hand hoe program in Bushenyi

The minister of general duties in the Prime Minister’s office, Hon. Mary Busingye Karooro Okurut, who is also the Bushenyi District Woman Member of Parliament has since 2015 been providing hand-held hoes to her constituents to help them improve production and food security at household level.

The program, which targets small holder farmers matches with president Museveni’s vision 2040, which seeks to transform Uganda from an Agrarian to industrial economy and the first two sustainable development goals- no poverty and zero hunger.

The current information provided by Minister Karooro’s political assistant, Mr. Wilson Karuhanga indicates that Kyabugimbi sub county has received 10000, Nyabubare- 8000, Ruhumuro-7000, Kyeizooba-10000, Bumbaire- 6500, Ibaare-6500, Nyakabirizi division-9000, Central Division-10000, Ishaka Division-10000 making a total of 77000 hoes so far distributed in the nine sub counties and divisions. The sub counties of Kyamuhunga town council, Kyamuhunga, Bitooma, and Kakanju have not received hoes of late and each is expected to get 10000 in a few months to come. The exercise will see over 100,000 hoes given to the farmers.

 Minister Karooro’s hoe project takes bigger shape amidst dissenting views and perceptions with some people believing that a hand hoe, though, traditional can help a small holder farmer while others insist that a hoe is a rudimentary tool that cannot push any society to a reasonable level of production.

Wikipedia defines a hoe as an ancient and versatile agricultural and horticultural hand tool used to shape soil, remove weeds, clear soil, and harvest root crops. Shaping the soil includes piling soil around the base of plants (hilling), digging narrow furrows (drills) and shallow trenches for planting seeds. Weeding with a hoe includes agitating the surface of the soil or cutting foliage from roots, and clearing soil of old roots and crop residues. Hoes for digging and moving soil are used to harvest root crops such as potatoes.

From an honest perspective, most people in Bushenyi district, especially in the rural sub counties of Ruhuumuro, Bitooma, and Kyabugimbi, have land because, they inherit it traditionally from their parents, but it is unfortunate, that some of them are too poor to buy a hoe. On the local market, a hoe is sold at 10000(ten thousand Uganda shillings). This automatically becomes hard for some people to buy it.

The power of the hoe can never be underestimated beside being used for centuries. Modern grading equipment can do well, but who takes a tractor to his banana plantation? Can a tractor be used by a farmer with one-acre piece of land? One can be made to believe automatically that a hoe is still reigning.

With some of the lowest rates of mechanization in Uganda, the majority of Bushenyi’s small hold farmers have no option, but to plant, control weeds, harvest and process their crops using a hoe. This confirms why a hoe can never be relegated to the museum.

That notwithstanding, with a hoe, a family will be able to guard against food insecurity and improve household income.

“There is something that we are calculating. Once a hoe is put to use, a family with enough food will live in good health and will also be able to sell part of the food for income, thus eradicating poverty,” says Mr Karuhanga.

Mr. Karuhanga testifies, that the hoes that were distributed in 2015 have seen their food production rate increase and they have brought part of what they have produced as tokens of appreciation to the MP.

“When the program was rolled out, people realized that they could do better with a hand hoe. Some of them used the hoes they had in their houses and they have testified making wonders with a hoe. They took the minister’s message and used what they had to till the land,” says Mr Karuhanga

One of the beneficiaries, Ms. Lydia Kyomuhendo from Nyabubaare sub county says their MP is doing her part and the recipients ought to use the hoes to do that which they are meant to do by tilling the land so that they can plant food.

“Hon. Karooro has done her part. It is high time we put the laziness aside and used the hoes to dig and get food for our children, sell what we produce, and get out of poverty. We are going to plant beans, tomatoes and others,” she says

A hoe is the simplest tool, a small holder farmer can use because many of the farmers are too poor to buy mechanized equipment like tractors, and by providing hoes to the population is in good faith, Mr. Pison Mugizi, a resident of Nyakabirizi division, Bushenyi-ishaka municipality advances. He supports the idea, saying, there is no way the minister should have provided tractors when farmers can afford using hoes.

“A hoe is a tool that a small holder farmer can afford to use. Do you want the minister to give tractors to such a farmer? For your information, most of these farmers area not able to buy themselves hoes. That’s actually the reason why you see them celebrating while receiving the hoes.” Mr. Mugizi argues

Mrs. Karooro refutes claims that her provision of hoes is a campaign tool, saying, the exercise is a promise being honored and fulfilled because she had some time back promised to donate hoes to the constituents.

“I am honoring the promise that I made some time ago. I am not politicking. Time for elections has not yet come. When that time comes, I will come back and tell you what I want. Some people have been castigating me for bringing hoes arguing that I should bring tractors, yet tractors cannot be used in many cases like in the banana plantation,” she said while distributing hoes in Nyabubare subcounty, Igara West recently

According to the Bushenyi district Production Coordinator, Mr. David Beinomugisha, a hoe is a suitable and simple tool that can help farmers because 100% of farmers in the district cannot use tractors and other mechanized equipment, and by providing hoes to farmers, the minister is spot on.

“When you go to these small households, you will find that many people don’t have hoes and cannot afford to buy them. The way people receive hoes show that they are always constrained. Actually, someone who provides hoes to farmers is far better than the one who gives them money,” says Mr Beinomugisha

He maintains that most women who are solely responsible for producing food at home lack tools like hoes and donating those tools to them is a prayer answered because most men don’t care how women get food.

Bushenyi district has relatively low poverty levels among its residents. The economy of the district depends mainly on agriculture. Agriculture is a source of food for the population, subsistence income for most families and provides direct employment to 86.7% of the district population, as well as supplying raw materials to industries. The majority of the people are involved in subsistence agriculture with some engaged in commercial production of crops including Matooke, Tea, Coffee, etc

Some residents have divergent views on the hoe program. Mr. Elly Muhwezi, the head of programs at Uganda Citizens Alliance says, the hand hoe can no longer get a common man out of poverty and whoever distributes them is struggling with relevancy having failed to deliver their mandate to electorates.

“The current political trend in Bushenyi particularly by some of the historical incumbents is pushed by the need to prove their relevancy having failed to deliver their mandate to the electorates. The politics of emihini to me is immaterial. I consider them spices that would have made their contribution to us the better way,” says Mr. Muhwezi

The Bushenyi district Secretary for Production and Marketing, Mr. John Bomukama appreciates the fact that the hoe has helped many realize good living and donating a hoe to a farmer is a good thing, but farmers have not failed to produce more because they lack hoes. He charges that people have hoes and other tools but all they need most is mindset change.

“Hon. Karooro’s program is very good, and I support it, but I want to assure you that the problem now is not shortage of hoes. Our people just need to have their mindset change. Some farmers have hoes and they have not become productive. A person whose problem is mindset change can never develop even if you give him a hundred hoes,” charged Mr Bomukama

Provision of hoes is an issue that people perceive or understand differently. The bottom line is that whether few or many hoes, farmers must revise their agronomy practices and application inputs if they want to realize high levels of production. They must also think big about improving their exhausted soils, which are no longer strong enough to support crop production.

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