Why SAGE funding should be prioritized

Sight Akatukunda

What you need to know:

The great gains realized over the 12 years of SAGE implementation ought to be sustained to achieve continued food security, good health, social inclusion and well-being of beneficiaries and their households.

Erika Muhima, 81, of Nturagi village, Kyabando Parish, Kasambya, Kakumiro District has benefited from the Senior Citizens Grant (SCG) under the Senior Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) scheme, since 2017.

Using the grant, he constructed a three room structure, part of which he rents out at a monthly fee of Shs25,000.

In anticipation of more cash in a couple of weeks, Muhima plans to start a poultry farm.

For Hellen Akwir, 83, of Achingi parish, Abongomola, Kwania District, the grant she has received since 2013 has aided her to hire labour and till her land. Akwir uses part of the sales from the produce to access medical services and pay fees for her school-going grandchildren. She is grateful to the government for the initiative. Asked what would happen if the government scrapped the grant, astonishingly she said, “…Unless you want to hear the bad news. God forbid”.

Piloted in 2010 targeting older persons aged 65 years (and 60 for Karamoja), the SAGE, now a national Programme has become a prominent feature of the social protection sector. Government provides direct income support of Ushs.25,000 per month to eligible older persons.

Currently benefiting 306,759 older persons across the country, the grant is a successful direct cash transfer mechanism that has demonstrated the role of social protection in reducing poverty and vulnerability. The reliability and predictability of the grant has provided evidence of social-economic empowerment, contributing to the NDP III goal of increased household incomes and quality of life. Statistics of older persons indicated that the numbers were projected at 1.7million in 2021 and 2.3 million by 2030 (UBOS 2016).  The alarming projections aside, many still survive without access to pensions and therefore have to continue working into older age, while engaging in small-scale businesses with very low earnings. The situation is worse for those that have disabilities or are infirm and unable to work. Without reliable incomes, older persons lead extreme lives on the verge of poverty.

Social grants therefore, are believably dependable safeguards with potential to reduce poverty, improve older people’s access to healthcare and restore dignity through financial independence.

It is therefore vital that the government identifies additional revenue sources to grow the country’s capacity to sustain the SAGE. And this is why;

1.  The Constitution of Uganda stipulates, “The State shall make reasonable provision for the welfare and maintenance of the Aged.” Chapter 4 specifies the rights and freedoms every Ugandan should enjoy, including the right to basics of life and a life of dignity.

2. There has been a significant increase in savings and investment amongst grant beneficiaries; leading to accumulation of assets and improved income security in the long term. The grant has reduced poverty levels  by 11 percent among beneficiary households.

3.  Findings from SAGE Beneficiary Surveys revealed that the average family size is 4.5 persons per household. The grant therefore indirectly impacts almost five persons in the benefiting homes and is the foundation for more income-generating ventures.

4.  Results also showed that the grant helps beneficiaries to access basic needs.  Beneficiaries specified that they use the grant to buy food (88.9 percent), access medical care (57.8 percent) and purchase livestock (27 percent). Another 16.8 percent confirmed spending the grant on education, translating into improved education outcomes and a reduction in child labour.

5. Another 35 percent said they had no one to turn to, in the absence or delay of the Grant while 54 percent said they would turn to their children for support.

Considering Uganda’s large social deficits, it is critical that the government makes deliberate efforts to increase funding for the SAGE, given the evident impact on improved welfare of older persons.

The great gains realized over the 12 years of SAGE implementation ought to be sustained to achieve continued food security, good health, social inclusion and well-being of beneficiaries and their households.

Ms Sight Akatukunda works with the SAGE Programme, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development


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