The Agriculture Cluster Development Project rolled out in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the World Bank in Gulu District and Gulu city has flopped due to the misappropriation of farmers’ contribution to the project. The International Development Assistance under the Word Bank is financing the project.
The project became effective in January 2017. However, it started in Gulu District in 2019/2020 financial year. Under the project, the beneficiaries are expected to open an E-voucher account at United Bank of Africa -UBA and pay Shillings 148,500 before receiving inputs like tarpaulin, seeds and fertilizer.
In Gulu, over 200 farmers who paid their money last year for the agricultural inputs did not receive their portion because the person who collected the money did not deposit on their respective E-Voucher accounts.
Michael Oneka, a farmer under Tidi –ma-myero Farmers’ Group in Bungatira Sub –County in Gulu District, says 12 of his group members paid Shillings 148,500 each totalling to Shillings 1,782,000 to Simon Lamex Ocaka, a staff of United Bank of Africa.
According to Oneka, they paid the money last year in the second planting season after Gulu District officials introduced Ocaka to them. He, however, says that to date they have not yet received the inputs.
Oneka disclosed that when they inquired where their money went, they were told that it was fraudulently collected and that the UBA staff involved has been dismissed.
He revealed that when they accessed documents at the project’s desk in Gulu, they found that over Shillings 30,000,000million from over 200 farmers including themselves was swindled.
Moses Omony, another farmer under Okum-goro farmer’s group in Bungatira Sub –County revealed that his group members collected Shillings 1,551,000million last year and handed it to the UBA staff sent by Gulu District authorities.
He explains that they received tarpaulins and on March 11, 2021, they collected another Shillings 777,000 and handed it to the same staff but have not received their inputs. According to Omony, whenever he tries to make inquiries, he fails to get a positive response from the concerned authorities.
Terensio Ocitti, a farmer under Pur ber Cooperative Society in Paicho Sub –County, says that he paid his money in March last year. He, however, says that he has not received the inputs. He says this forced him to plant four hectares of beans without fertilizer.
Agnes Akwero, another farmer under the project says that she has failed to plant rice this year as she had planned because of theft of her money. Geoffrey Komakech, a famer in Koro in Pece –Laroo Division, says that she thought the project would help farmers like other government programs like Operation Wealth Creation but was surprised to learn that their money was swindled.
Geoffrey Anywar, the Gulu District Agriculture Engineer, says that Simon Lamex Ocaka, a former staff of United Bank of Africa-UBA swindled the farmers’ money.
According to Anywar, Gulu District is working hard to help the farmers recover their money from Ocaka by engaging his family.
Ocaka has not yet commented, as our reporter could not reach him because his known mobile number was unavailable. The Agriculture Cluster Development Project has four components, which include support for the intensification of on-farm production, value addition and market access, policy, regulatory and institutional support and coordination, management and ICT platform.