Almost half of the heifers distributed to farmers in Apac district under Operation Wealth Creation OWC in the financial year 2015/2016 have died. Col. Godfrey Okello, the Apac District OWC Coordinator, says that of the 73 heifers distributed, 31 have so far died due to what he described as negligence from the beneficiaries.
According to the report on Ministerial Policy Statement for the Financial Year 2016/2017 of the Committee of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, 188 heifers were distributed to nine District Local Government under OWC to support 188 households in 2015/2016 Financial Year. In addition, another 3, 576 heifers were delivered to the various Districts Local Government under Letter of Credit for the Financial Year 2014/2015.
Col. Godfrey Okello, the Apac District OWC Coordinator, says out of these Apac district received 73 heifers to support 73 households in 2015/2016 Financial Year.
However, Okello says at least 31 animals have so far died due to what he described as negligence from the beneficiaries.
According to Okello, eight of the animals died during birth while the rest succumbed to tick bites related diseases.
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Okello blamed the beneficiaries for failing to adhere to some of the guidelines on proper management of these animals which they received during the training before the the animals were delivered. He cited the weekly spraying of the animals against ticks which he said majority of the beneficiaries were not adhering to.
Farmers in Apac are yet to receive animals for the 2016/2017 financial year.
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Peter Okelo of Owang village, a beneficiary that lost his animal says its too expensive to keep heifers in the region. He cited unfavourable weather conditions which he says does not favour the heifers. Okello says the animal requires constant monitoring and close attention most of the time.
He said he was spending almost all productive time on the animal alone to ensure it's healthy.
Another beneficiaries who lost his animal from Apac town council blames those managing the Operation Wealth Creation for not giving them adequate training on proper management of these animals. The beneficiary who only identified himself as Opio for fear of being victimised said the OWC secretariat should employ veterinary officers who should work with beneficiaries to help them in time of need.
The beneficiaries, many of whom are elderly men and women burdened by orphans, say they had a reason to smile after receiving these animals. However, for those who have lost their animals, they say hopes that the heifers would help improve their lives, help them educate their children as well as enable them live more descent lives in their old age are all gone.
Mary Adongo, an elderly woman from Ibuje sub county and a trained diary farmer, advised the new beneficiaries to learn from each other including how to feed the cows, if they want to get the best results.
Adongo said since she started dairy farming ten years ago, it has become her job to feed the four animals well and make sure they are comfortable in the kraal.
She however noted that dairy farmers need to join the association because they face many challenges in caring for the cattle.
Col Okello says the responsibility for caring for the heifers including veterinary services solely lies with the beneficiaries. "If the animals are sick, they have to pull money out of their pockets because this animal is the money government is giving them," said Okello.
President Yoweri Museveni launched Operation Wealth Creation in July 2013, bringing the Uganda People's Defence Forces - UPDF to distribute agricultural inputs and livestock purchased by the government under the National Agricultural Advisory Services - NAADS.
The ongoing distribution of heifers, coffee, fruit seedlings and other inputs are yet another direct intervention by the government to try to trigger economic transformation of majority of the population that still languish in poverty.
Government aims to move the country into a middle-income status bracket through increased agricultural production. The government for example aims to boost coffee production from the current 4 million bags of coffee to 20 million by the year 2020.