OP-ED

Mixed Livelihoods; A sustainable approach to economic empowerment in Uganda

By Muteguya Denis

Economic opportunities in Uganda abound, yet formal jobs and wage employment remain largely out of reach for the majority of its population. Development programs historically focused on formal sector employment have not kept pace with the realities of Uganda’s labor market, where the private sector struggles to absorb the influx of job seekers. Consequently, many young Ugandans turn to a blend of informal employment, self-employment, and agriculture a pattern of income generation known as “mixed livelihoods.”

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This situation is not unique to Uganda. Across Africa, young people face similar challenges and opportunities. For example, in Nigeria, the informal sector constitutes a significant portion of the economy, providing employment for millions who cannot find formal jobs. Similarly, in Kenya, the concept of ‘jua kali’ Swahili for ‘hot sun,’ referring to informal sector workers illustrates the critical role that mixed livelihoods play in sustaining the economy.

In Uganda, mixed livelihoods have become a survival strategy, particularly for young people and women who find themselves at the margins of the formal job market. This approach allows them to engage in multiple economic activities, such as small-scale farming, artisanal work, and petty trade, thus diversifying their income sources and reducing vulnerability to economic shocks.

The Office of the National Chairman (ONC) under the leadership of SPA/PA Hajjat Hadijah Namyalo Uzeiye, and guided by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, has initiated a pragmatic approach to enhance these mixed livelihoods. By distributing empowerment assortments such as agricultural inputs, brick-making machines, groundnut machines, popcorn machines, hairdryers, hair clippers, and sewing machines, ONC aims to improve the economic prospects of individuals across different regions of the country.

This initiative has had a significant impact on various communities. For instance, in Namutumba District, young mothers have benefited from these empowerment tools, leading to improved livelihoods under the guidance of District Coordinator Ms. Naigaga Lilian. These initiatives are particularly notable for their accessibility; they do not involve cumbersome bureaucratic processes, making it easier for youth and women to receive the support they need.

The broad distribution of these tools, regardless of political affiliation, tribe, or gender, underscores the inclusive nature of the program. Such initiatives help restore trust in government programs, as evidenced by the positive reception from the local population. This model of direct support contrasts with previous approaches that often entailed lengthy procedures and limited accessibility.

The effectiveness of mixed livelihoods and empowerment initiatives can be observed in other countries as well. In Rwanda, the government has promoted agri-business and small-scale enterprises through similar empowerment programs, significantly reducing unemployment rates. Ethiopia’s focus on microfinance and small business support has also yielded positive outcomes, enhancing the economic stability of numerous households.

In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank model has empowered women by providing microloans to start small businesses, leading to substantial socio-economic improvements. These examples highlight the potential of localized, grassroots empowerment initiatives in fostering economic resilience and growth.

In conclusion, while formal employment remains a challenge in Uganda, the concept of mixed livelihoods offers a viable alternative for many young people and women. The ONC’s initiative to distribute empowerment assortments has proven to be a practical approach to improving livelihoods and fostering economic independence.

By learning from and adapting successful models from other countries, Uganda can further refine its strategies to support its citizens in achieving sustainable economic growth.

The call for President Museveni to continue channeling wealth creation assortments through the ONC, under the stewardship of Hajjat Namyalo, reflects the community’s recognition of the initiative’s impact.

This strategy, if sustained and expanded, holds the promise of transforming the economic landscape of Uganda by empowering its most vulnerable populations.

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