Having previously worked for a farmers’ organisation, Agency for Transformation for some time, I came to appreciate the challenges an ordinary farmer goes through just trying to eke a living in farming. Most households, especially the small holder-farming ecosystem, lack financial and agricultural infrastructure. Such challenges are now exacerbated by the volatility of prices for farm produce, climate change and land fragmentation, among others.
The introduction of National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) in 2001, was majorly premised on addressing some of the challenges that made agriculture a bad business for most of the four million households that rely on agriculture as a source of living in Uganda. However, Naads’ structural weaknesses and allegations of grand corruption limited both its relevance and impact.
The latter introduction of Operation Wealth Creation was meant to arrest some of the Naads failings, especially in monitoring the supply of inputs to farmers. Most households I recently visited seem to agree that inputs supply has fairly improved although questions on quality and choice of inputs linger on. However, the broad question is: Can both Naads and Operation Wealth Creation create wealth for most households when they are not promoting inclusive growth for all people? How equitable is the supply of inputs in most households that are male-dominated? Research shows that women do more than 60 per cent of all agricultural labour in Uganda. Yet most women not only lack access to land but also hardly benefit from the proceeds of their farm work in most male-headed households. The implication of this is that whatever proceeds are generated; it is mainly the heads of households, usually men, that enjoy such in exclusion of women and children. Such a skewed structure of wealth generation cannot guarantee wealth creation.
Such a defect can only be cured if Operation Wealth Creation overseers and local leaders such as Resident District Commissioners were given an extra mandate to carry out civic engagements that promote inclusiveness in inputs supply.
In Uganda, there are many child-headed households. These are households that are headed by children, especially double orphans.
Majority of these households are found in Rakai and Masaka districts. Children in such households live in deplorable conditions without basic necessities and some have dropped out of schools because they cannot afford basic things such as school uniforms. Such children often turn to petty crimes, drugs, petty jobs, etc to get by.
Although the law forbids child labour, it allows children, especially those above 12 years, to work where the work is in their best interests.
This means both Naads and Operation Wealth Creation can promote child-sensitive wealth creation projects that are less strenuous yet lucrative such as passion fruits growing and others. These allow such vulnerable children to generate their own income without compromising their ability to attend school or violating their rights as children.
Recently, I facilitated a workshop in Entebbe attended by a number of Members of Parliament, who attributed the current resurgence in gender-based domestic violence to household wrangles over property rights such as land and proceeds that come from the sale of family farm produce. Gender-based violence does not only affect women but also the children.
In a situation where power relations in households are skewed usually in favour of men, it is impossible that national development programmes to improve the incomes of such households, can register any positive impact. Hence, any intervention both by government and non-governmental organisations, must first address household conflicts to promote inclusive growth. Naads through Operation Wealth Creation, should design a gender and child-sensitive mechanism that promotes equitable supply of inputs.
Mr Oramire works with Centre for Children’s Rights.