I have been reading an interesting article
by Kevin Bailey who was an envoy from the US and worked here in Uganda with BOSCO-Uganda. He talked a lot about how money from aid workers helped to stimulate development in northen Uganda with emphasis on Gulu. I do agree with him. I also agree with his suggestions for having long-life employments that would create unending flow of funds and thus development to northern Uganda. An ICT project is something that we can not
do without. It is an eye-opening treasure, it elliminates isolation etc etc.
I would also want to make my own suggestions.
When we look at northern Uganda we find that the bulk of the population are either semi skilled proffessionals or are just unskilled labourers. Most of the inhabitants survive by subsistence farming. So when we talk of intergal development of the region, we should talk of measures that can alleviate the conditions of this bulk. I have cited in some of my writings, for example here
where I some economic activities of the people in Acholi can be found. The subsistence farmers have handicaps that can not make them progress. Some of the handicaps are here below:
- inadequate capital
- lack of skilled labour force
- poor storage facilities
- poor marketing
The above factors clearly point out that development of this place can either be slow or may even stagnate.
If I look back at the 1960s and 1970s growing of commercial crops were organised by co-operative unions. The unions supervised Growers' societies. The societies in turn supported the small holders- as they were called. In the 1990s the co-operative movement was abolished and privatisation of parastatals came into being. It is so unfortunate that not only was the management of the parastatal firms privatised but their ownership too was privatised. This caused a big collaspse of the co-operative movement in Uganda. With the exception of Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) in eastern Uganda, all other unions are either defunct or are operating minimally.
Using one cooperative union as an example to illustrate how the cooperative movement supported and developed some, I would like to pick on West Acholi Cooperative Union . This union was supported by BAT( British American Tobacco) Uganda Ltd. It flourished in the seveties and early eighties. The farmers too got some fair share. BAT through the union and the cooperative societies funded farmers two kinds of soft loans viz. Barn loan and Production loan.The loans were recovered from farmers with minimal interests. It should be noted here that although the union worked for profit, it also took into account the development of the individual farmer.
How are things on the ground right now?
The peasant farmers can be compared to chicks whose mother has been devoured by a wild cat. As they settle into their villages, they have to make ends meet with difficulties. They need improved seeds which no one provides for that. They are anxious to open large pieces of land for cultivation but their only tool, the hoe, does not support the venture. They try to look for market for their little produce but they end up in the mouths of greedy middle men who milk them without feeding them.
The government is trying to organise farmers through a programme called NAADS --National Agricultural Advisory Services.
But this programme is going at a slow pace -- taking 6 farmers to support in a parish per year. A parish has about 1000 farmers. NAADS has also been marred with alegations of corruption such that the beneficiaries end up not getting what was due to them
The revival of the Uganda Cooperative Alliance
is a likely answer to the plight of the farmers in northern Uganda.
This artilce appeals to investors, developers and or organisations whose intention is to make profit and at the same time leave tangible traces of their presence in northern Uganda to consider the followings; (A) CROP GROWING
Northern Uganda is endowed with plentiful of rain and adequate sunshine. The climate is favourable for the growing if many crops.
This is a viable crop in the sense that it can be grown three times a year. Ther climate of northern Uganda favours its growth, It can is consumed locally and can also be exported to southern Sudan especially when milled into flour. It is also viable because it can be grown extensively by middle class farmers. Maize growers can be organised in coperative societies.
|has good market in southern Sudan
( 2 ) Groundnuts
This is another very importany crop that is widely grown in northern and eastern Uganda. Like maize this crop does so well in the northern climate,it can also be grown extensively and has good market in many places in the world.
This is another vital crop that could be grown extensively by co-operative societies. Of all other annual crops, sunflower survives harsh conditions more than all the rest. It can do well even in land that has little soil fertility. Organisations that pick on this crop would flourish as demand for cholesterol free oil is in high demand in the world.
|provides oil and animal feeds
Upland rice was introduced in Acholiland about two and a half decades ago. It has become the main earner of income in many households in the districts of Gulu, Amuru, Oyam and Apac. Some people in Lira district grow it too. The main problem with it is good market. Many middle men swarm in during harvest time cheat the peasant by giving the just peanuts. A fully fledged cooperative would alleviate the farmers and boost production.
|some plant in rows others just brocast
( simsim) This crop is largely grown in Acholiland and Lango sub-region. It is fairly resistant to bad weather. Can be grown at a large scale. Oil from simsim is in demand everywhere in the world.
|wanted by everyone
This is a plantation crop ie it can be grown on a large piece of land for commercial purposes. Although banana is not a staple food crop of the Acholi people, the land is quite suitable for its cultivation. Trucks come all the way from Masaka in southern Uganda and beyond bringing bananas to southern Sudan. Why not crop the crop here just some few mile to the boder with Sudan? A co-operative society manned by proffesionals could help in boosting the production of'green gold' as some people call it.
(B) FRUIT GROWING
|grows healthily in northern uganda
Northern Uganda is capable of producing fruits that can be consumed locally and exported. almost all the fruits that grow in the Mediteranean climate do well in Uganda. Citrus fruits in the names of oranges, lemons guavas all do well here.Pawpaws, Jack Fruits Ovacados, Pasion Fruits are some of the fruits that do well here.
|they too, do well
Mangoes are plentifull.Their ripe fuits are sometimes thrown away because no one wants them. Preservation is not possible because olack of knowledge and equipment.
|ag good deal of the fruits are not eaten
Pinapples were also tried and have been found to do well in northern Uganda. Not many peasants have attempted to cultivate this delicious fruit. An attempt on this could yield encouraging results.
|beginning to take roots in northern uganda
Along side fruit growing , a farmer could as well keep honey bees. Bees and plants are renowned for their mutualistic symbiosism. They get together well as bees polinate the flowers and plants provide nectar (food for the bees) . Apiculture can be quite paying as seen here. (D) ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
The climate in northern Uganda , as I said earlier, is very conducive. It comfortably supports plant and animal life. A variety of animal breeds have been tried here and all results show that whether native of exotic, all breeds of cattle, goats, pigs chicken and even sheep survive the northern Uganda climate with ease.
(1) Cattle rearing
Farmers can be organised in cooperative societies for rearing cattle. In such an arrangement, it is easier to support, monitor and evaluate the farmers progress. This part of Uganda could be used to rear beef cattle and also dairy cattle.
|local breeds as well exotic breeds survive
This is another vital activity that can be organised under co-operatives andcan be really paying to the farmer and the cooperative that runs it. Take a look at Pukure Fish Farm in Lacor.
Definitely this is a clear sign that wealth and money can pour in the hands of the northerns in Uganda who have suffered a great deal.
There are however some doubts that I should clear:
- Roads Acholi sub region has many roads that I can't say are good but at least I can say are accessible. Two important main ones will soon undergo tarmarcadisation. ie one from Gulu town to Nimule in sourthern Sudan. The other one is from Olwiyo south-west of Gulu town to Kitgum - east of Gulu
- Power Although Gulu town does not have high, steady and reliable power suppl, there is good news that the construstion of Karuma Power station will save Gulu from powere defficiency.
- Water Supply Gulu is not endowed with large water bodies like Uganda's industrial towns of Jinja and Kampala. But I can boldly say that Gulu has ample water from rivers surrounding it that running machines that need water will not be a problem.
- Land There is nothing like land shortage. What can be a problem may be procedurs of aquiring it.
- Labour I, earlier, talked about labour. This is not so lacking in both skilled and unskilled labour force.
- The Industrial Park Gulu town is on the verge of developing a large industrial park, The Uganda Investment Authority has endorsed the plan and development of the park will take off any time from now.
Why do I bring the industrial park here? If one looks at the raw materials that Acholi sub region and its neighbours can produce, then one must also think of adding value to the raw materials before selling them. There are a number of processing industries that can spring up in the park.
- Maize milling - Maize flour sells like hot cakes locally and also in the less privillaged areas surrounding this sub region.
- Meat packing - Why can't this be possible if beef cattle are reared in the sub region?
- Fruit Juice Processing - I think it would do us a lot of good if fruit juice from our fuits were processed in our industrial park. Is fruit not more nutritious than sodas?
- Fish Packing - This could be another important activity in the industrial park.
- Milk Pasteurisation and Packing - Another viable activity.
My vision is that if the farmers--smallholdres are organised in co-operative societies and the societies are run by co-operative unions, then production will increase. And also the unions can go ahead to process the raw produce from the societies. In this way, the farmers will be elevated. Kevin Bailey put it that empolyees of NGO's are running out of jobs; won't this be another oportunity for them to hold on to their bread? What about the banks that have sprouted in Gulu in the last decade? With this arrangement in place will they not have a stream of money flowing in their blood now and for ever? Please put in your comments
OKEMA JOKONDINO ROBINSON