Good intentions, bad extension systems? How the ‘Garden Store Approach’ crippled tea expansion in Kigezi sub-region, SW Uganda
Prudence Kemigisha and
Agricultural Systems, 2020, vol. 180, issue C
The Garden Store Approach (GSA) was introduced in the tea sub-subsector in the Kigezi sub-region to establish tea in places where the crop was not traditionally grown. In this approach, the Lead Agency (LA) and Nursery Bed Operators (NBOs) planted and maintained tea gardens for the farmers for the first six months, and later withdrew following payment by the District Local Governments. Young tea gardens were left to farmers, and in most places, the gardens were “choked” by weeds as a corollary of abandonment. To illuminate the nature of the politics and the weed problem in the area – our objectives are two-fold: 1) to profile farmers who planted tea under the GSA in Kigezi sub-region; and 2) to illuminate farmers' reasons for reluctance to control weeds in their tea gardens. We employed mixed methods. A questionnaire was administered to a total of 1208 tea farmers (households) that benefitted from the GSA in 4 districts: Kanungu (n=466), Kisoro (n=235), Kabale (n=353) and Rubanda (n=154). The households were categorised into 3 (based on the weeding status of their gardens): 1) unweeded, 2) weeded and 3) both weeded and unweeded. Household data were analysed using Principle Components Analysis (PCA) and Cluster Analysis (CA). Our data show that farmers with “sufficient” land sizes, moderate income and household sizes were more likely to participate in the GSA. The main reasons for not controlling weeds were: 1) a lack of finances to control weeds (28% to 65%), 2) the Lead Agency's (LA) failure to fulfil their promise of controlling weeds (7% to 14%), 3) while 4% to 9% highlighted a lack of labour as the main challenge. Issues of market access, large size of tea gardens, poor sense of ownership of the tea gardens, ignorance about tea management were also outstanding. The study shows that well–intended development can be captured by highly placed political actors: the weaknesses and failures in the tea weed management and the poor state of the tea was mostly rooted in the fundamental flaws embedded in the GSA. Although the motivation of tea expansion was well founded, the GSA created large uncertainties. Significant effort is required through a focused extension system, to train farmers on weed management and other agronomic practices. More broadly, extension systems should be organic, specific to farmer needs, and deliberate efforts should be made to divorce technical advice from mere amassing of political capital.
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