Acholi hopeful PDM will get region out of poverty

Youth take measurement of their produce in Pader District at the weekend. Produce buying and selling is one enterprise eligible under the PDM. PHOTO/TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • The Parish Development Model (PDM) is a new government programme to lift more than 3 million peasant households into the money economy.
  • In this second instalment of our series, PDM and making money, our reporters Teddy Dokotho, Marko Taibot & Tobbias Jolly Owiny detail how Acholi Sub-region received the programme.

Momentum around the Parish Development Model (PDM) project implementation has rapidly built in the past three weeks in the Acholi Sub-region.

This resulted from a deliberate mass sensitisation by the civil and political leadership of local government units spread across the region.

President Museveni launched PDM in February in a bid to alleviate poverty.

The model is intended to lift at least 17 million Ugandans in approximately 3.5 million households out of poverty through transformation of subsistence households into a money economy.

The revolving fund goes directly to the Sacco accounts in each parish, from which households can borrow and invest in income-generating activities.

Each head of a home registered in the local Sacco will receive Shs1 milion.

About 280 tractors will be available for some of the more capital-intensive parish projects such as mechanised agriculture.

In Omoro District, for example, Monitor established at the weekend that training for trainers of trainers as well as the formation of several committees to steer the programme has been completed ahead of kickoff.
 Besides appointing the focal point officer, Mr Douglas Peter Okello, the district chairman, says the district has also constituted the District Monitoring Team and another District Technical Committee to steer the programme.

“Training of all the parish chiefs from all the 65 parishes have already been concluded and the parish chiefs have also commenced community sensitisation on PDM and group formation has also been done,” Mr Okello said.

Up to 879 enterprise groups have been formed and the district has also registered the parish Saccos accounts that have accordingly been opened in three different banks; Post Bank, DFCU Bank, and Centenary Bank.

Mr Okello said: “In the different group accounts, revolving funds worth Shs7.3m have already been remitted.”

In an interview, Mr Andrew Onyuk, the Omoro RDC, said they are optimistic about the fruits of the programmes and that new parish chiefs for the 37 parishes out of the total 65 that did not have their chiefs, have been appointed.

“The district is ready and prepared for the PMD, our only challenge is now being agricultural-based, the prolonged drought is causing havoc yet most of our farmers rely on rains,” Mr Onyuk said.

He said PDM will be a success because everything is in place and they are sticking to the set guidelines for implementation.

“We intend to monitor every step of the implementation of the PDM programme to ensure that the intended objectives of alleviating the 39 percent from poverty are achieved,” the RDC said.

“The only issues we are working hard to improve on is the pillar on mindset change. The  team is down in the communities trying to educate them so that they don’t mistake it as any other fund, but to understand that it is a revolving fund,”  Mr Onyuk added.

Similar to Gulu City, information accessed from Gulu District PDM files indicates that majority groups have applied to grow coffee, cassava, cashew nuts as well as livestock production such as piggery, and fisheries.

The city has also received Shs157m to implement PDM in its 32 parishes with each parish projected to take Shs4.9m.

It is also reported at least 400 enterprises including piggery, aquaculture, poultry, among others have been registered with nearly 10,000 people set to benefit.

“Of the enterprises so far registered, value-addition, fish farming and piggery are leading and we continue to encourage the beneficiaries to go out for enterprises that are not prone to harsh weather,” Mr Alfred Okwonga, the Gulu City Mayor, said.

Mr Okwonga said the choice of these enterprises was informed by their profitability and the ease to sustain them compared to other enterprises. 

Whereas in Kitgum District, beneficiary groups appear to major in piggery, cassava and fisheries, in the neighbouring Agago, many groups were reported to have applied for value-addition in shea nuts, maize processing, and piggery.

Meanwhile, the Agago District chief Administrative officer, Mr Stephen Oloya, said the district last week signed financial agreements with the Saccos and they have already deposited the revolving funds to different Sacco account groups.

“We are now having training for the Parish Development Committees,” Mr Oloya said.

He added that at least 1,000 enterprises have been formed among the 117 parishes in the district.

“We are only waiting for communication to start operations. Our monitoring team is in place and we have started monitoring the works, the Saccos have opened accounts in Bank of Africa and Centenary Bank waiting to start,” he said.

Mr Geoffrey Osborn Oceng, the Lamwo RDC, during the enterprise selection, said most groups and parishes benched on simsim, soyabeans, and sunflower and the key crops/enterprises.

“The choice for these crops are because Lamwo is basically an agricultural district and the funds arrived at a time when farmers were preparing their gardens and plantations for the planting, and the funds disbursed to them is a huge relief,” Mr Oceng said.

Authorities in Kitgum District said sensitisation and formation of the necessary enterprises had been completed and that funds were yet to be wired to the group accounts.

“We are prepared in Kitgum, of all the 83 parishes in the district, sensitisation has been done at all levels, and formation of enterprises has also been completed by all the groups including registering Saccos whose bank accounts have all been opened,” Mr William Komakech, the Kitgum RDC, said.

In Amuru District, the RDC, Mr Stephen Odong Latek, said PDM is the only game changer for the people.

“It is true the Acholi Sub-region has been in war, but now we need to come out of that, and we can best do this if the resources are put into good use under the PDM,” he said.

Youth take measurement of their produce in Pader District at the weekend. Produce buying and selling is one enterprise eligible under the PDM. PHOTO/TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

The people of northern Uganda were affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels led by Joseph Kony for decades.

Mr Latek says many people look at only one pillar, the financial inclusion (Shs100m) but the Acholi Sub-region is ready and the Acholi people need it (PDM) more than any other person,” Mr Latek adds.

Ms Sonny Mugoya, the Gulu District deputy CAO, says the district is set to kick off with the implementation of the PDM, and that the beneficiaries have chosen key and impactful enterprises.

Whereas Ms Mugoya insists PDM will address poverty at the household level due to the mindset change component that addresses the psychological dilemma in the north, Mr Christopher Opiyo Ateker, the Gulu District chairperson, says the intervention will hit a snag unless key gaps are addressed.

Just like the Emyooga programme that was quickly hit by setbacks in the district, Mr Opiyo argues that a lack of administrative structures, limited awareness, and poor network could jeopardise the initiative.

He adds: “We are encountering several challenges, one is the newly created administrative units such as villages and parishes which were created, but the Electoral Commission (EC) has not conducted elections for these office bearers and that means we have very many parishes and villages without heads to mobilise for and supervise the programme.”
He also listed unstable electricity supply and Internet connection.

In May 2022, the district received approximately Shs156 million from the Ministry of Local Government to help in conducting community sensitisation and mobilisation at the district and parish levels as well as recruit parish chiefs to supervise the programme.

Just like Gulu, even though the other districts prepare to roll out the implementation, it has been established that several of them are limping with several challenges.

In Omoro District, Mr Okello says they are yet to train the new parish chiefs.

He also says there is need to conduct mass sensitisation on the PDM to help the community understand its operations, noting that once there is limited knowledge of the programme, it could likely end up being abused.  

Mr Onyuk says because most projects are agricultural-based, bad weather may frustrate their efforts. 

He also admits that it has been a challenge to cause a mindset change among the population.

“The only issue we are working hard to improve on is the mindset change, we have the team down in the communities trying to educate them on the PDM so that they don’t mistake it as any ordinary money but understand that it is a revolving fund,” Mr Onyuk adds.

But Ms Beatrice Atim Anywar, the State minister for Environment, advises that Acholi people must prioritise value-addition on their farm products.

A group of women in Lira Town sort bird-eye chillie prior to processing for export. PHOTO/TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

While the farmers have capacity to produce huge volumes of crops, Ms Anywar  says they encounter losses since they do not add value to their crops.

She also calls for investment into profitable farming ventures such as aquaculture, coffee and bee keeping to avert dangers associated to bad weather conditions in the north.

She says although crops have been supporting farmers, their output has not uplifted their social-economic status.

On Monday, the EC said there are no plans to have the elections of LC2 chairpersons for the newly created parishes until the next term.

In an interview, Mr Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesman, said activities of the new parishes will have to be supervised by LC2 chairpersons of the mother parishes to avoid frustrating the programme.

“We don’t have any elections for the LC2 chairpersons of the new parishes soon, the newly created administrative units (parishes) will only have their leaders elected next season and that means the leaders of the mother parishes can administratively stand in for them,” Mr Bukenya says.
Mr Oloya says Agago has encountered challenges in collecting data since it is done digitally besides serious misconceptions about the programme.

“The data collectors do not have good equipment (smartphones), poor Internet connection, low batteries of the phone, etc. There is also a need for more information because there are people who think this is some government grant, on learning that the money is a loan they got discouraged.”

Of the 26 sub-counties with 117 parishes and 1167 villages, some of the sub-counties are large and the data collection has not been completed for kickoff.

A month ago, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) conducted orientation training for trainers of PDM supervisors in Gulu District.

UBOS trained the personnel comprising district, city council and sub-county representative that have now been mandated to do community profiling, data collection analysis, tabulation, storage, and dissemination at the parish level before the implementation begins.
 Although the data collection that was scheduled to commence on June 10, to June 24 to help generate work plans, and budgets, including the performance report of PDM, the process delayed to kick off in many parts of the region.

By last week, several areas for example in Agago, Lamwo and Kitgum districts were still struggling to finish the data collection.

Although he could not give reasons, Mr Mr Paul Okello, a senior statistician with UBOS, says earlier on the exercise progressed slowly.
On the issue  of poor Internet, Ms Imelda Mirembe, the senior communication officer of the ICT and National Guidance ministry, says Internet connections will be required at only limited intervals during the profiling and registration periods of the project.

“The data collection is going to be carried out using a mobile application and the Internet can only be used for logging in and downloading the forms from the servers and submitting the two different types of forms for household profiling and community profiling,” he says.
While the government is optimistic that the intervention is a sure deal to relieve Acholi from poverty, the Acholi Cultural Chiefdom thinks differently.

In an interview with Monitor, the Chiefdom’s premier, Mr Ambrose Olaa, expressed worries that the approaches to be used in implementing the programme in the Acholi could bring it down to its knees since it forgoes the fundamental components.

“Because the region is yet to recover from the aftermath of the LRA war, there are no deliberate components of the programme that targets the psychological reconstruction of the region,” Mr Olaa says.

He adds: “Our people still have a lot of psychological problems, many people are ex-combatants, we have ex-abductees, children born from captivity, we have people who were brutalised, others are still struggling to get compensated for what they lost during the war and they are not catered for in the programme.” 

But Mr Latek believes Acholi is ready for PDM since the seven pillars of the programme, including mindset change tackle the dilemma Mr Olaa raises.

“It is true the Acholi has been in war, but now we need to come out of that, and we can best do this if the resources are put into good use under the PDM. Many people look at only one pillar that is the financial inclusion but the Acholi Sub-region is ready and the Acholi needs it more.”

Failed government efforts
Whereas the government has put in place different projects to spur transformation, local leaders say there are misguided priorities as far as addressing the issue is concerned.

For a region that was once ravaged by the LRA insurgence led by Joseph Kony, the social and economic potentials of the people in the sub-region are yet to be rebuilt.  A huge fraction of former rebels in Acholi is yet to resettle back to their former homesteads.

While several organisations equipped ex-rebels with skills, they reportedly ignored their psychological rehabilitation, and others even abandoned or sold off tools they were given after the training because they felt they could not fit in the community.

Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, launched the insurgency in 1987, claiming the lives of more than 10,000 people and displacing nearly two million people.

To ensure economic and social recovery of the sub-region, the government has since 2003 come up with more than seven different projects worth billions of shillings albeit with limited fruits. Some of the programmes include PRDP, NUSAF, DINO, NURP, and PRELNOR, among others.

Just like the Patiko Clan Chief,  Mr Rwot Collin Atiko,  Mr Olaa says the Acholi people are not at the same level as the rest of the country and they deserve specific funds that should be directed towards  addressing their challenges and aligning them.

 “The people of Acholi are in a ditch and PDM is at the surface, and for the people of Acholi to get to the surface, we need to review our post-war situation, otherwise you are throwing PDM to people who are traumatised and it will not benefit them,”  he says.


Mr Kassemiro Ongom, the Patongo Clan Chief, predicts a disaster due to poor attitude among the beneficiaries and limited consultation with the beneficiaries and local leaders on what works best for the people.

“Before the government came with this view, they needed to first change the minds of the people in regards to enterprises and commercial farming.

“Our people do not know about enterprise development and savings. This means that whatever money they make from their enterprises will be wasted because their mindset is poor,” Mr Ongom argues.

He cites the majority of VSLA groups in his area that save for a whole year, but waste the money in a single day. “In the minds of our people, you save to eat and drink it, and that is what they are already waiting for this (PDM) money for and before long, these groups will disintegrate due to conflicts of interest since they only want to eat it while others want to develop,” Mr Ongom says.

Mao, govt call

Mr Norbert Mao, the Democratic Party president general, has called for support for the programme, saying the funding is enough to change the economic fortunes of Acholi.  “My appeal to the government is, let the community lead this project, the government should only come in to hold these communities accountable. As Mao, I say, let’s give the PDM a chance, let’s not dismiss it (as a failure),” Mr Mao says.

He also calls for vigilance among the leaders and members of the public to guard against corruption. Attempts to speak to the Local Government minister, Mr Raphael Magyezi , and his Gender counterpart, Ms Betty Amongi, to respond to concerns, were futile since repeated calls were not answered.But Mr Frank Mugabi, the Gender Ministry spokesman, says the ministry is aware of the dilemma and a team of experts has been sent on ground to undertake psychosocial support. Mr Mugabi says: ‘‘The cultural leadership of Acholi recently met with the ministry and were briefed on their roles in regards to the programme, specific mindset change and psychosocial support provision,’’

On likely tumble of the project due to weather vagaries, Mr Mugabi says government is working to ensure crop enterprises are insured against weather failures. Mr Mugabi adds that the programme is implemented with support of agricultural specialists at the district and at lower local governments, who offer the technical support and services to the farmer groups on when, how and what crops to grow during the season. “We have trained those project specialists like the agricultural officer, production officer who must be readily available to guide the groups on what to do when there is drought, we are zeroing on locally available resources to manage those challenges.”

PDM disbursement summary

District,   population,    No. of groups (parishes) and poverty rate (%)
Kitgum    225,000    54    68
Agago    227,000    117    68
Pader    231,700    97    68
Lamwo    144,000    41    68
Amuru    216,000    54    68
Nwoya    236,000    58    67
Omoro    197,000    65    68
Gulu    397,000    47    68
Gulu City    250,000    32    65
Kitgum Municipal      45,000    29    66


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