Why Govt poverty alleviation programmes have failed

Since the early 1990s, the increasing poverty of Ugandans has been a thorn in the shoes of the NRM government forcing it to swing into action by initiating numerous programmes in a bid to rectify the problem.

By: Mubiru George

Uganda’s population is estimated to be 48 million people with half of it assumed to be children under 15 years of age and 77% below 25 years of age, representing one of the biggest youngest populations in the world. 76% of the population is assumed to be living in rural areas of which 73% of its workforce is employed in agriculture.

Uganda is regarded as one of the poorest countries in the world with over 30% living below the poverty line of U.S $ 1.77 a person per day (UBOS 2021). About 33% have accounts in financial institutions and 53% of the children complete primary education much as there is Universal Primary Education (UPE). Generally, half of the Ugandan population experiences multi-dimensional poverty and lives in a parlous state.

Since the early 1990s, the increasing poverty of Ugandans has been a thorn in the shoes of the NRM government forcing it to swing into action by initiating numerous programmes in a bid to rectify the problem. Indeed it has been a long and arduous journey but Such programs have yielded little or no success and most have been abandoned or duplicated. Actually, there is currently growing scepticism about the programs among the distraught populace.

The Rural Farmers’ Scheme (RFC), aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and farmers’ livelihoods through credit was first introduced in the early 1990s followed by the Credit Finance Scheme known as “Entandikwa ” (seed capital) which was introduced in 1995. Shockingly, the number of not only poor but also vulnerable Ugandans increased and settled to the hilt. 

This was followed by the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA) 2001-2009. PMA was a holistic strategic framework aimed at transforming subsistence farming into commercial farming with seven pillars; 

  1. National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS)
  2. Research and technological development
  3. Strengthening technological systems and pathways.
  4. Agriculture Education.
  5. Improving access to rural finance.
  6. Agro-processing and marketing.
  7. Sustainable natural resource utilisation and management.

However, only two pillars of agriculture research and NAADS registered some little success.

Towards 2006, Prosperity For All (PFA) “Bona Bagagawale” which is not dissimilar to PMA in goals was introduced and sought to improve the livelihood of all farmers through agriculture commercialisation. The initiative also had five pillars of improving production, value addition, marketing, microfinance and support of economic enterprises that would enable each household to earn daily, periodic and long-term incomes with a target of UGX 20m per year.

Generally, the major aim of Bonna Bagagawale was to make all Ugandans rich but instead became a lucrative business for corrupt officials.

The National Development Plan (NDP) 2010/11-2014/15 aimed at achieving growth, employment and socio-economic transformation for prosperity with Agriculture as the main sector was introduced with similar principles to the above programs. The pivot of this program was also to transform from subsistence farming to a competitive, profitable and sustainable sector alongside the Development Investment Strategic Plan (DSIP) in the same period.

DSIP was the agriculture sector’s revised road map that was intended to guide public action and expenditure during the tenure of the first NDP. Its goals were similar to the earlier programs but with an emphasis to remove constraints that prevent the private sector from investing in value addition.

Towards 2021, the “Emyooga” program was introduced and like all the previous programs, it was immediately followed by now the Parish Development Model (PDM). All the above programs are co-currently run alongside the Youth Capital Fund (YCF), Youth Livelihood Program (YLP) and Uganda Women Empowerment Program (UWEP). Given the implementation of all the above programs, poverty levels remain astronomical in the country, epitomized in Busoga and Karamoja. 

To my observation, the president has initiated and spearheaded these programs with good intentions, but has been let down by his officials and the people. Both government and the people are to blame.

Amidst the president’s genuine concern for the government to its people, Most government officials have taken the cowardly path of negligence that cares only about the single-minded pursuits of money, power and nepotism. Officials operating through greed and personal ambitions is the cause of all the serial failures.

I cherish the greatness and courage of our president in telling the truth in such pertinent issues, but with poverty alleviation, he needs to be propelled by the same spirit to overrule on the transgressions of his officers who have stolen from the bereft communities and gone Scot free. This has forced him to duplicate the same programs instead of getting a permanent remedy to boot out those corrupt officials.

Due to corruption, nepotism, political patronage, bureaucracy, poor planning, inflated administration costs, mismanagement, poor monitoring and sometimes under-financing, government will never realize success in poverty alleviation.

The biggest problem is our leaders right from MPs to the local government leaders who do the implementation of the programmes coupled with Syndicated corruption in the oversight bodies like IGG, Office of the Auditor General, Police and the State House Anti-corruption unit haven’t helped either. The system has been corrupted to give an advantage to people who have no empathy. It’s the lack of satisfaction and the languid trust in public institutions which largely explain the low levels of progress.

Unregulated capitalism has given sycophants a golden ticket to the top, but once there, they want everyone else to act like a sycophant too. Empathy is their kryptonite. The president is just overstretched and let down by his so-called cadres.

Additionally, most of these programs are not informed by Statistics and they lack a clear work plan, for example, PDM is changing operational procedures several times.

While on a campaign trail in the recently concluded parliamentary by-election in Oyam, the president was left in shock wondering whether such Programs have reached the area; “In Oyam, I drove for 27kms, from Col. Engola’s home to Icheme and to Otwal, looking at the different sides of the road. I only saw some little patches of Muhogo (cassava) and maize. That is why at Otwal, I asked the question: “Cente (sente), tye kwene?”- “From where do you get money?” What has Operation Wealth Creation been doing in that area? No coffee, no fruits, no poultry, no piggery, no dairy and no fish farming. In otherwords, no PDM. As I told the Oyam People, I am going back in August to get an answer to that question. The chairman told me about watermelons and soya beans. Those are not part of the activities for PDM. What is the cura (Kibaro)?” – @KagutaMuseveni 

On the other hand, the negative mindset and attitudes of the people where agriculture is viewed as a dirty job and often seen as a punishment has crippled the programs. It’s extremely hard to ignite the uncurious minds of mostly the youths who are not allured to agriculture. These programs are misconceived as political rewards and consequently mismanaged. 

Additionally, Land fragmentation, poor access to markets and unpredictable weather have been a hindrance mostly to agriculture. There is also illiteracy in the majority of the population. People can hardly put into action what is required of them due to ignorance, much as there is inadequate technical staff, mostly Agriculture extension workers to teach the local people how to handle the programs.  The greater part of the population is not very intelligent, dreads responsibility and desires better than to be told what to do.

To our officials, mostly local government workers; “killing our destiny at this step, is not in turbulence, war, riots or executions, but when you close your eyes to poverty, suffering and our general welfare. All hard-heartedness, indifference and contempt are nothing else than killing a future.” You have betrayed President Museveni’s efforts to totally transform and improve the livelihood of Ugandans.

To the local people, ” no matter how prosperous a man was, if he failed to rule over his women and children ( most especially women ) he was not really a man.” We should know where we are and why we are there. Let’s help the president to expose the corrupt and gullible leaders and civil servants frustrating his efforts.

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The writer is a Jinja-based researcher and NRM mobilised. Email: georgemubiru93@gmail.com

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