Turn Rubona Stock Farm into hands-on University of Agriculture

By Roy Rugumayo.

I have thought about many issues and shared them with friends. Some, they find tenable,  others they find it bizarre. To all, I appreciate the very hearty feedback.

Allow me to make this modest proposal for getting rid of Robona Stock farm and establishing in its place, a university of agriculture,  college of agriculture or whatever form or name can be attainable.

The basis of my opinion is simple. Whereas the cause and objectives are reasonable, the idea of a government farm is not fashionable anymore. In our context, and according to so much evidence provided by reports of the auditor general, the stock farm is one of those areas we put in so much and yet get so little. 

It is operating at a loss, like many others we invest billions in. The only time we get to hear about the farm is when the government is planning to restock it, reconstruct some infrastructure there, etc. The little gain we get perhaps is that it is still in the books of geography and agriculture as an attempt at bolstering agricultural development.  

Also, students and pupils frequent the place on their school trips. Lastly, a few people have jobs there as managers, cleaners, and agricultural officers. 

Other than that, what is the contribution of the farm to the Uganda Revenue Authority? How much does it send to the consolidated fund per year?

Other than when the government is restocking it, we only get to hear about the farm in the news for mismanagement.

As you go past it, you can see it decaying away. You dont need to read the books of accounts to see the gross mismanagement. It is a heap of squalor and abandonment you see, in Broad daylight. It welcomes you right at the gate. This is my modest proposal, let us have a university of agriculture there instead.

Lately, I am thrilled with the idea of education that is very particular about addressing the challenges of the people. 

Not very recently,  I was at Garissa University.  This university is in the northeast part of Kenya near the border with Somalia. Their mandate is to research and innovate in line with finding solutions to the desert environment of the region where it is located and to tame the desert and ensure progress in the region.  

Rubona Stock Farm located in Tooro, a hugely agricultural area should be turned into a university with a similar mandate. The livestock farm is sitting on 746.9 acres (302 ha), of farmland. This is premium! 

The university would be twice the size of Makerere University to begin with. With a university there, first of all, there is an addition of at least 3000 students for the start and that solves the abandonment we see whenever going past the farm.

Of course, where there are people,  housekeeping will be done, at least at the bare minimum. That will go a long way in boosting the local economy as the new students will need food, accommodations and other services like printing, medicals, scholastics etc.

Now, these students will be paying tuition, let us say a million each per semester. That is six billion shillings if we take it at 3000 students minimum. Also, these students are free labour on the farm that must produce. 

Along the University of Agriculture, there should be a processing centre for food and beverages. A mini agro-processing centre and we must have lorries leaving the university with loads of packed water, yoghurts, milk,  cheese,  beef, bacon, eggs, chicken, canned foods, powdered milk,  irrigation supplies, etc. 

The University should focus its strategy on synergizing multi-disciplinary education and strengthening problem-specific research relevant to Tooro specifically and Uganda generally and help build innovative extension systems for sustainable management of natural resources, sustainable agricultural production and overall improvement of rural livelihoods.

The stock farm may not, but a university can provide quality education in Agriculture, Horticulture, Co-operation, Forestry, Agricultural Engineering, Home Science and other allied disciplines.

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It must undertake basic, applied and adaptive research to address current and future challenges of the farming community in Tooro particularly and Uganda to provide management options relevant to the prevailing agroclimatic and socioeconomic situations.

Generate appropriate technologies to support the sustainable growth of agricultural entrepreneurship and agri-business.

Develop innovative extension strategies and formulate effective mechanisms for the Transfer of Technology to institutions and farmers for enhanced and sustainable agricultural production leading to improved rural livelihoods.

Locate and protect biodiversity to preserve agro-ecosystem of the state and to document traditional knowledge and technologies.

For purposes of executing that mandate, I opine the following courses, 

  • Degree in Agricultural Engineering.
  • Degree in Engineering of the Agricultural and Food Industries.
  • Horticultural Engineering BSc. 
  • Agribusiness, B.S.
  • Agricultural Business Management program. 
  • Agricultural Engineering Technology
  • Agricultural Mechanical Engineer.
  • Agronomic Engineering.

The same can be offered as diploma and certificate courses.

University Funding. 

It is my thinking that as a university, it is easier to obtain funding from partnerships and collaborations from a multitude of partners than as a government-owned stock farm. From tuition, billions can be obtained for the day-to-day running of the university.

The farm production, which must be run strictly on a private business, profit-run model should be a prominent part of the university,  with students learning hands-on while providing free human resources.

Of course, to sustain consistent production,  the university will offer a market to local producers of milk, pork, chicken etc who adhere to set standards. 

Students from within the district and region should be given tuition subsidies provided they prove that after attaining their education,  they intend to directly get involved in agricultural development activities within their communities of origin. 

This can be achieved through public-private partnerships if the government is not willing to fully fund the idea. A private firm, can take over, and construct the university infrastructure and the production process lines under government subsidization. 

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The land, farm and all that is put there is property of the government and should the deal not work out, the farm and university still belong to the government. 

The government can pay critical staff in teaching but others must be paid by the business, like every other private entity pays its staff. 

The Rationale. 

Whatever the government is seeking to gain from maintaining a stock farm,  it would still get from the university. The university can be a centre for agricultural excellence and inspire increased productivity in Bunyangabu District and Tooro Region as a whole.

Is this not a perfect idea? It is a modest proposal that anyone can consider working on, perfecting and following up with the hope that one day, the loss-making Rubona Stock Farm can be turned into a busy, productive and profit-driven university for the benefit of the people of Bunyangabu district,  Tooro region and Uganda. 

For God and my country.  

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The writer is a Patriot, development enthusiast and Leader.


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