Farming

Xmas thefts hurt farmers, harm the economy

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By Andrew Ndawula Kalema

Posted  Wednesday, December 18  2013 at  13:19
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Baby Jesus must be tossing and turning in the manger over crimes people are ready to commit to ensure they celebrate his birthday in style.

Has it occurred to you that the Christmas tree in your living room or the chicken, which is the highlight of your Christmas dinner, is probably stolen?
An old woman somewhere may be cursing this day after someone stole her only goat to sell it for money to celebrate Christmas?

I am not accusing anyone of being an accessory to crime, but just trying to highlight the hard times many farmers experience during the festive season.

Security arrangements
Many are spending nights out in the cold guarding their gardens and livestock. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Some have taken to tethering their goats on their bed posts at night; others have carried their beddings to the “manger”, not to express their solidarity with baby Jesus but to keep an eye on the prize cow.

A few weeks ago, through this column, I advised fellow farmers to review the security arrangements on their farms during the year end festive season, as Adam and Eve’s descendants are wont to maintain the tradition of reaping where they did not sow, which started in the Garden of Eden.

Like Adam and Eve, the “festive season thieves” never take time to reflect on how their actions impact on their victim’s life. All they want is cash to finance their Xmas plans.
So, they will steal your stud bull worth millions and sell it off at a fraction of its real value. You have heard about the farmer who offered to buy back his stolen stud bull at twice its market value.

Ask yourself
The thieves got suspicious and slaughtered the bull, hoping to find a cache of gold hidden somewhere in its body. Being thieves and not farmers, they missed the “gold” hidden in the bulls’ scrotum.
Some forms of theft have been going on for so long; society has come to accept them as the norm. Take, for instance, the Xmas tree business. A week or so to the big day, you find fellows peddling the branches from door to door. They have ready market as many would love to have an Xmas tree in their house.

But have you ever stopped to wonder where these “Xmas tree merchants” source their stock from? Certainly not from National Forest Authority.
Most of them were hedges, cut down without the owner’s permission, just like the first human couple did in the Garden of Eden. Some frustrated owners have been forced to mutilate their hedges, to save them from these Xmas robbers.
The Xmas thefts tell a lot about our society. We live for the day and rarely plan for the future. In societies where people plan for the future there are plant nurseries specialising in just Xmas trees.

Plan ahead
The whole year they are preparing for that one festive season sale, confident that there will be a big demand for the trees. They come up with a whole range of packages, offering different tree species and sizes to attract customers.
It is a sure deal. Christianity has been celebrating Christmas day every year for centuries. What are the chances this year will be different?

By planning ahead, they are able to make enough money during the festive season to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle for the rest of the year.

But here, we start planning for Xmas within a month to the day. Are you then surprised that we engage in un-Christian activities like raiding the neighbour’s hedge for Xmas trees or her farm for a goat?

Huge share
The other festive season kind of theft that we have come to accept is the increase in public transport fares. Transport to most upcountry destinations more than double during this time. Most farm workers spend a huge part of their one month’s salary on transport to the village to celebrate Xmas with their families. No amount of counsel will convince them to postpone their trip to January or go earlier in November.
Many of them get their year’s earnings stolen on the way, but still do the same thing the following year.

Produce enough
It is not only the farmers suffering as a result of these thefts. The country’s economy is affected.
For instance, Uganda is missing out on the lucrative market for goat meat in the Arab world, because we cannot produce enough animals to sustain the market.
For the last 20 or so years, government has been promoting goat farming through Naads and other agencies, but the goat population has failed to increase. I will explain why.

Great demand
In my village, it is almost a ‘taboo’ to own more than three goats. Once your goat herd grows beyond five, it immediately becomes a target for thieves, who have a well-developed network of scouts. The scouts, in most cases, unemployed youth, keep monitoring the herd and updating the thieves.
Once they are convinced the herd is big enough, the thieves will strike. Now you know why the goat population in this country remains stagnant, in spite of the great demand for goat meat.

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