What I learnt from distributing maize seeds

Friday September 24 2021
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Joan Acom Alobo

By Guest Writer

In August, just as the long-awaited rain resumed after a prolonged dry spell, every member of the 11th Parliament was given 3,000 kilogrammes of maize seeds to distribute to households in their constituencies. 

Each minister received 4,000 kilograms for the same intervention. It was unusual for government to use political leaders at the national level to do this, and not the Ministry ofAgriculture (through the notorious NAADS) or the Local Government established channels for service delivery.

While this assignment or experiment seemed random, it was a bold move by the central government to give MPs andministers firsthand experience of the setbacks the country is facing in notonly modernizing agriculture, but on service delivery in general. 

And it was coincidentally at the time when the Soroti Resident City Commissioner (RCC) was becoming more frustrated and incoherent in explaining where and how the hoes that were meant to be distributed to households in his command disappeared. 

So, as a District Woman Representative with a fairly large and complex constituency, this is what I did upon receipt of the maize seeds.

Firstly, I used the local radio stations to declare to the public what I had received in precise terms stating the quantities and the intended beneficiaries. 

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Secondly, I met with two directly elected Members of Parliament for the two divisions that make up Soroti City area and agreed with them to distribute the seeds to our people jointly and in a coordinated manner.

Thereafter, we invited the Local Council 1 and 2 chairpersons, along with the ward and division councilors to enlist their views on how the limited amount of seeds in our hands could be best shared out. The LC 1 chairpersons, thereafter, distributed the seeds, and not even a singlemaize seed was stolen. 

I did not receive a single complaint from the targetaudience. Given the stellar performance by the LC1 committees in this experiment, I plan to demand that no LC1 committee in my constituency will be left behind in the implementation of the Parish Development Model. 

They must actually be the linchpin.
I learnt two important lessons from this assignment. The first being, it is so easy to suppress corruption and poor service delivery in this country. 

The trick lies in empowering the LCs around the country. All government has to do is to motivate these people by payingthem a basic living wage of not less than Shs200,000 per month, and give them a voice to demand for accountability and transparency by enabling access to information about what the local governments receive on behalf of the common man in their villages. 

I am yet to understand where the NRM party found money to buy yellow bicycles for their party village chairpersons, but none for the LCs.My second lesson was obviously that, there should never be any political colours irretrievably staining service delivery. In other words, service delivery should not be along party lines as parties are about a contest of ideas and alternative approaches to social transformation. 

The truncated approach of targeting the already-wealthy NRMstalwarts that has characterized how Naads and Operation Wealth Creation function must stop. People are people and they deserve better services from the government to which they pay all sorts of taxes.

Ms Joan Acom Alobo is the Woman Member of Parliament for Soroti City
[email protected]

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