Revelations this week that President Yoweri Museveni directed the Lands Ministry to give away part of the land hosting the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRI) at Namulonge to businessman Sudhir Ruparelia for flower growing, is an absurd decision indeed and deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
The decision is an affront to the wishes and aspirations of many Ugandans who wish to see improved agricultural production and poverty eradication through higher yielding and resilient crop varieties that are being developed by researchers at Namulonge.
In fact, the position to relegate the research function, more especially on agriculture, sharply contradicts all principles and goals as set by the government in different policy statements, including the National Development Plan, the NRM’s Manifesto, that highlight the central role of science and technology to propel Uganda into a middle-income country by the year 2030.
The proposed give-away of such a vital national asset which benefits millions of Uganda to a flower farm owned by an individual is therefore a wrong step in the wrong direction.
The skewed thought comes at a particularly wrong timing when the country is debating the revival of critical national institutions including a national airline, electricity distribution company, railway company among others because their absence has cost the country enormously. It also goes to confirm that careless privatisation, was bound to be regretted.
Recent years have seen the neglect of research institutions and give-away of their land that has forced top-notch brains to leave the country for greener pastures in Europe and other countries that cherish the value of research in their national development.
Giving away land at Namulonge, the biggest research institution in the country in terms of crops and programmes, is a lamentable decision that will not only scare away more of our few remaining researchers but also donors that support agriculture.
History has demonstrated that NO country in the world has managed to attain economic transformation without using science and technology, especially in the field of agriculture, which secures food supply the country, and thereby release labour force to work in the manufacturing and services industry. Uganda cannot be an exception.
Ugandans must this time round stand up and resist the give-away of research land because it’s existence is at the core of our very survival and advancement as a people.
Western countries have not attained economic superiority by accident; they are leaders in Research and Development. Uganda is one of the African countries that signed a declaration that agreed to dedicate one percent of their national budgets to Research and Development.
This planned give away is taking the country in the opposite direction and betrays the trust and mandate given to the President by the people of Uganda, especially of protecting the lives and property of the people.