Poverty

Government Promotes Access to Affordable Credit in Rwenzori Region

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Cliff Abenaitwe

Government through its body- The Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) has kicked off a campaign to promote access to affordable credit in the districts of Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo- in the Rwenzori Region. The campaign is targeting various categories of community members, along with District, Cultural and Religious leaders to sensitize them on the affordable funding opportunities available to increase household incomes and improve livelihoods.

Recently, a team from MSC concluded a two-week long sensitization drive of stakeholders and community members- the first of the many sensitization campaigns geared towards creating awareness and building capacity of community groups to access and benefit from government funding.

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Peter Kibirango- the Kabarole Region MSC Manager during one of the sensitization meetings in Kasese district

According to Hellen Petranella Matsika- an official from the MSC, over the past couple of years, government through MSC has extended cheap, affordable credit to entities in this region and more groups are being targeted for funding to alleviate poverty. “We have disbursed 29 Billion Shillings in the 9 districts of Kasese, Bunyagabu, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo, Mubende and Kabarole under our Kabarole Zonal Office, but these funds have been to SACCOS, Cooperatives and Companies”, Matsika explains. She however observed that very few community groups of people at different levels have benefited yet these groups have many members and are engaged in many income generating activities.

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According to MSC’s Hellen Matsika, government is determined to avail affordable credit to Ugandans and MSC is at the centre of this drive

Out of the 29 Billion Shillings disbursed in the region so far, Kasese District has taken a lion’s share with 27 Billion Shillings going to Corporate bodies, Microfinance Institutions and Cooperatives while Bundibugyo has benefited the least with 160 Million Shillings.

One of the biggest bottlenecks according to MSC is people’s little awareness about the existence of such affordable financing. “Government has this funding opportunity and we offer different credit products at an interest between 9 and 17 percent per annum. This is the cheapest credit in Uganda but people are not aware of this. Government is now committed to improve awareness to spur development”, Matsika confidently told this site.

To drive this, officials from MSC are now training and engaging leaders, stakeholders and people from different groups in the districts of Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo to popularize this Government program in the region.

According to Belinda Atim, the MSC Public Relations Officer (PRO), bringing Political leaders, district technical leaders,

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Belinda Atim- PRO MSC

religious leaders, opinion leaders and cultural leaders on board is key in the sensitization initiatives because these people interact with Ugandans at all levels on a daily basis adding that with them, every person will get information about this affordable funding option from Government.

Key Observations So Far

According to Matsika, apart from little knowledge on the availability of these funds, people in the region though they have groups, a number of these groups are not fully registered with the office of the District Commercial Officer (DCO), many are poor at book keeping but all these can be corrected for these groups to qualify for government funding. On the other hand, Matsika observed that there are many well organized groups like the over 1000 Women Groups under the Rwenzori Catholic Diocese that are ready for funding adding that these will be funded soon to boost their income activities.

Community Responses

Mumbere Bonny Hastings- a Person Living With Disability in Bundibugyo District

People Living With Disability and other vulnerable groups like women, the elderly have for long been neglected. However, with this government funding that takes care of all groups of people, we shall be able to access affordable low-interest funds to boost our economic activities. All we need is more sensitization on how we can organize and strengthen our groups to benefit from these funds.

Mbetegyerize Godfrey- RDC Bundibugyo;

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Bundibugyo RDC Godfrey Mbetegyerize

Government has come up with different programs to fight poverty. It has done its job. Now it is time for Ugandans to take advantage of these initiatives to access funds to boost economic activities. However, people who get these funds must know that it is not free money so it should be used for the right purpose to generate income so that groups are able to repay.

Mubulya Wilson- Prime Minister Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba

The number of people accessing such good programs are still low yet people are still struggling with poverty. With more sensitization as initiated this time, awareness will improve and people will embrace this program and more others. We as cultural leaders appreciate the fact that we have a role to play in mobilising our communities to work towards prosperity.

Vila Nyeisi Muhindo- Chairperson Kasese Parish Women group

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Women Groups like the one Vila Nyeisi Muhindo heads are categorised as special interest groups and one of the key areas of focus 

Through our different church groups, we have been saving little funds which we have been using in income generating activities like making liquid soap, buying tents and chairs for hire among other ventures. However, our scope of activities has over the years been limited by funds. We believe that with such affordable funding from government through the Microfinance Support Centre, we shall be able to expand our activities and earn more income to support of families and fight poverty.

My Opinion

Affordable financing still remains a very big issue in Uganda. Loans from Commercial Banks are charged a relatively high interest rate which makes them unattainable. What remains puzzling is that many government initiated credit and financing options are affordable but the uptake of these facilities leaves a lot to be desired.

Now that MSC has set the ball in motion, sensitization of Ugandans in different areas on how to access this affordable finance must be scaled up. To achieve this, a sustainable, multi-stakeholder approach must be adopted for effective and efficient mobilization. A cross section of Ugandans think that government financing is like a donation hence no need to bother re-paying. However, with regular monitoring of beneficiaries, the advanced funds can be put to good use and the beneficiaries will be in position to repay.    

About MSC

The Microfinance Support Centre, a Government company incorporated in 2001, has since its inception disbursed close to 270b countrywide. The company boasts of a database of 5000 client institutions which have benefited from Government’s vision of prosperity for all. While the initial efforts were geared towards support to Savings and Credit Co-operative Organizations (SACCOs), services were later extended to Village Loans and Savings Associations (VSLAs), which attract more of the rural folk. Piloted in the East and Northern regions of the country, support to groups is now open countrywide with a call for informal business groups to get organized and registered at the district level so as to benefit from the provision.

MSC offers the cheapest micro-credit facility ranging from 9-17 percent and places emphasis on lending to the agricultural sector, the backbone of the economy.

 

 

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Celebrities Rallied on Tobacco Control

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Cliff Abenaitwe

Seeing people smoking in a music video or a movie is a common scene not only in Uganda but globally. CelebritiesThese scenes make smoking look fancy and this has far reaching consequences on the people especially the youth who look at musicians and movie stars as role models.

Health activists involved in tobacco control are concerned by this trend and want an end to it.

Andrew Kwizera, the Technical Resource Person in charge of the East African region for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids- a global Organisation on Tobacco Control says that many celebrities show scenes of smoking in music videos and films yet many are seen as role models to the youth. “Many young people who follow these stars have adopted smoking. This is setting a bad image to these innocent young people”, Kwizera observes adding that as a result of smoking, young people have been exposed to various tobacco related diseases which are hard and expensive to treat.

Bob Marley
Photographs like this of the legendary music icon Bob Marley smoking are common with celebrities.

Statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that the average age of debutant smokers is 12-14 years globally.

According to Richard Baguma  Tinkasimire, the coordinator Uganda Health Communication Alliance- one of the organizations at the forefront of tobacco control campaign in Uganda, young people are easily lured into smoking mainly by peer pressure and copying those they look at as role models. “Parents, leaders and celebrities must set a good example to the young generation and make children pick the best practices from them. Acts like smoking or tobacco consumption in any form should be discouraged”, he explains.

As part of the efforts to promote a smoking free generation, health activists in Uganda have adopted the use of musicians and other celebrities in the tobacco control campaigns.

Sophie Gombya- a household name in Uganda’s music industry is one of the Tobacco control ambassadors. “It’s true we have a big following, we have power to influence behavior directly or indirectly. As musicians and celebrities must be aware that what we do and show impacts on our followers.

Sophie Gombya- a Tobacco Control Ambassador
Sophie Gombya- a Tobacco Control Ambassador. 

We must therefore be mindful not to encourage bad habits like smoking among the people especially the youth who follow and adore us”, the vibrant Gombya explains. 

Apart from Gombya, the Tobacco control fraternity has also used people like the Uganda National Netball Team- the ‘She Cranes’ to rally people against Tobacco- a move that Baguma says is paying off.

The Legal Framework

Uganda is a signatory of to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Article 13 (4a) prohibits all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that promote tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions.

Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act of 2015 also bans promotion and advertising of tobacco products, open display of tobacco products and selling of tobacco products to minors among others.

Whether showing of smoking scenes in movies and music videos is deliberate to lure people into this act, it is a clear breach of the law and the reality is- it ought to stop.

According to Kokulinda Lutgard, the head of Tanzania Tobacco Control Alliance, musicians and other celebrities have a huge impact on their following and can play a great role in Tobacco control but also everyone has a character to play in this campaign.

The Global Tobacco Burden

According to health experts, Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year worldwide with more than 6 million of those deaths as a result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The most worrying fact is that nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest and alarming.

Over the years, significant strides have been made in Tobacco Control but this is more in developed countries than in the developing world.

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Graphic pack warnings are being scaled-up in many countries to raise awareness about the dangers of Tobacco Consumption.  

A 2017 report by WHO on “Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies” reveal that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to no smoking areas. About 4.7 billion people – 63 percent of the world’s population are covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure, which has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15 percent of the world’s population were covered.

 

Uganda has an estimated 1.3 Million smokers- according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report of 2013 with each smoker spending an average of 20, 730 Shillings (about 6 USD) on manufactured cigarettes per month.

Close But Too Far: The Health Tale of the Batwa in Uganda

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By Cliff Abenaitwe

The 1995 Constitution of Uganda (Third schedule) recognizes 56 indigenous communities that existed in Uganda as at 1st February, 1926. One of these communities is the Batwa tribe- a unique group of indigenous people.

For generations, the Batwa lived in the forests of the Kigezi region (Kabale, Kanungu and Kisoro districts in Western Uganda), Eastern Congo and the forests of North Western Rwanda. Their way of life entirely depended of the forests.

These areas were not only for shelter but were sources of food, medicine as well as worshiping places. In the early 1990’s government gazetted areas where they lived as conservation areas paving way for the creation of EChuya Forest Reserve, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mugahinga National park. This was the turning point for the Batwa for good or for worse depending on the side you are looking at. One aspect to note about gazettment of these areas is that the Batwa were never compensated contrary to the statutory provisions on land acquisition by government.

The 2012 National housing and population census indicated that Uganda had 6,700 Batwa. The 2007 survey by the Organization for Batwa development in Uganda (OBDU) reveals that there are 3135 Batwa in South western Uganda with Kisoro district home to 1937 of them.

Today, that Batwa are mainly living in the districts of Kisoro, Kabale, Kanungu, Bundibigyo, Mbarara, Ntungamo, some in Lwengo and Mubende- in other words; they are scattered.

In all these areas, they are landless and this has negatively impacted on their political, social and economic aspects of life.

A family of five people live in this house. It is temporary and the roof leaks when it rains.
The Batwa live in poor houses like these ones in most areas. In the photo is a home of a Mutwa family in Ruceri Village- Kisoro district. In the back ground, is the Ruceri village chairman’s house – one of the few iron roofed houses in the area .

WAY OF LIFE

Majority of the Batwa are living as squatters. Their relationship with the land owners (the non Batwa) is that the Batwa stay on the land (where they build a small semi-permanent house and do some small scale subsistence farming) in exchange of cheap labor. This symbiotic looking but parasitic relationship has left the Batwa vulnerable, unsettled and poor.

During my visit to Batwa communities in Kanungu, Kisoro and Kabale districts, I found out that the moment the land lord is not satisfied with the output of the squatter, the relationship is terminated at will and the Mutwa’s family has to look for somewhere else to live. “I cannot for example grow long term crops like coffee or a banana plantation on the land that is not mine. The owner will not allow me or I might be chased before I enjoy the benefits of my sweat. Any time, you can be chased away. We cannot be sure of tomorrow”, a visibly worried Gad Bagaraya, a 32 year old father of six living in Ruceri village in Kisoro district told me. We just live today and when the land lord decides to terminate the relationship, you move to another area for another good Samaritan who will allow you to stay on his land, he elaborated adding that “ we are loved because of our energy and hard work character”.

Except the lucky few who have been resettled by some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that bought land for them, many others live like this but they hope for a brighter settled future.

This is another house for another family. Take a close look at the nature of the sorrounding soil. It is too rocky to support crop growth.
The Batwa who have not been resettled (the majority) live in poor houses like this. This is a family home in Ruceri village on the slopes of Mount Muhabura in Kisoro district.

Health Status of the Batwa

Health is an important aspect of every community. I took a keen interest in the health status of the Batwa Community in Kisoro district which has the biggest number of this unique group of people. Ruceri village in Nyarusinza Sub County is home to over 20 Batwa families each with an average of 5 members. It is about 25 kilometres away from Kisoro Town but because of the poor road (which stops somewhere before the village) and the distance you must walk up the mountain to the village, its takes over one hour to reach.

Residents here somehow managed to put up where they call home on what they say is government land. Some in this village built of land belonging to the non- Batwa residents. Being a mountain, it’s too rocky and cultivation is impossible. They work for the non-Batwa in the villages near-by to get food or small pieces of land to cultivate. As a result, their nutrition leaves a lot to be desired. “We eat once a day and our children have little to feed on”, Nyirandufiye Celina, a 38 year old mother of six told me during my visit to the area on a relatively warm Sunday morning.

According to health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), breast feeding mothers ought to feed well to perform this task well. Just imagine what a baby would get from a mother who spends hours working but gets one insufficient meal a day!

In a community like this, housing will always be a challenge. Whereas a few through hard work and much austerity measures have managed to construct iron roofed houses, many stay in grass thatched or old tuplin thatched houses that leak when it rains. The temporary houses are small but a family will somehow find away to stay in. “I have worked and saved for years to get money to buy iron sheets for my house. It’s not easy. That is the reason why many people in our community stay in temporary shelter. They are also difficult to put up because grass and banana fibres for roofing are hard to get these days. They use the little they get and the houses leak when it rains”, Sserutokye Stephen,

Mr. Serutokye Stephen- the Vice chairman Ruceri village in Nyarusinza Sub County
Mr. Sserutokye Stephen- the Vice chairman Ruceri village in Nyarusinza Sub County

the Ruceri village vice chairperson explained.

A family of five lives in this house. It is temporary and the roof leaks when it rains.

During the visit, I entered 7 houses (both the iron roofed and the temporary roofed) and I noticed that clothing is inadequate and so are beddings while ownership and use of mosquito nets is a distant dream for all.

Latrine Coverage

The national latrine coverage stands at an average of about 77 percent. This is not a good figure but there are many areas doing badly in latrine coverage including Kisoro district. The Kisoro district Chairperson Ben Mutabazi puts the latrine coverage at about 55 percent- way below the wanting national average. The latrine coverage among the Batwa is however worse. It is less than 30 percent in Ruceri village in Kisoro district and in other Batwa communities I visited in Kisoro, Kabale and Kanungu districts.

In the Ruceri Village (Batwa community), only three households have pit latrines. The chairman, the vice chairman and one resident are the only ones with pit latrines. However, they are shallow and temporarily built with no roof. Their quality notwithstanding, these homes are better than the rest where members defecate in bushes.

This is a great health risk to the people of this area. Records at Mutorere Hospital in Kisoro District reveal that diarrhea cases account for the highest number of disease cases among children.

The world health body denotes that many diseases are associated with poor sanitation.

“Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 280 000 diarrhea deaths annually and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma. Poor sanitation also contributes to malnutrition”, WHO elaborates.

It’s inexcusable for a family and a community to be without a latrine in the modern day age but the reasons advanced by this community deserve a hearing. According to Ruceri village Chairman John Haguma-Imana, land is the greatest problem. “The owner of the land gives you a little portion of land to build your home and establish a small garden- so you find yourself with no land for a latrine.

During my interview with Mr. the chairman of the Batwa of Ruceri Village. His house is one of the few iron roofed houses.
During my interview with Mr. Haguma-Imana John , the chairman of Ruceri Village. His house is one of the few iron roofed houses.

Besides, these people are temporary here. Am not trying to justify our problem but the people here are facing a number of challenges”, Haguma-imana explained.

An old adage goes – Health is made at home and repaired at a health facility. From the above experience, a Mutwa in Kisoro has the health facility to rely on for his well being. I took some time to look at the health services available and accessible to these people.

Nyarusinza health centre Three is the closest health facility – about 7 kilometers from Ruceri village. It’s a government health facility but just like many other public health centres, it has several challenges that negatively impact on its capacity to deliver and consequently it has failed to attract the confidence of the community including the Batwa.

Perhaps the biggest gift to the Batwa came in form of the Combating Child Mortality Among Batwa in Kisoro district (CCMB) program- an initiative of St. Francis Hospital popularly known as Mutorere hospital and its partners.

The front view of St. Francis Hospital Mutorere. It is among the best, clean and organized health facilities i have visited in Uganda
The front view of St. Francis Hospital Mutorere. It is among the best, clean and organized health facilities i have visited in Uganda

The arrangement under this program is that when a Mutwa falls sick or wants to access any health service including but not limited to testing, screening and child delivery, he or she simply walks to Mutorere hospital, is served for as long as it takes and the bill is footed by the hospital and its partners in this program.

For the pregnant mothers who definitely have to spend a couple of days as well as those who are admitted, the project takes care of their feeding as well as the feeding on the attendants for the longevity of one’s stay at the facility. It’s this treatment that makes the Batwa feel free, access quality medical care, stay healthy and hope for the best. “The services at Mutorere are excellent, a reason why we are healthy and few mothers and children die during and after delivery”, Nyiraneza Mereth, a resident of Rubuguri in Kisoro district who I found at the hospital attending to her pregnant aunt told me.

This facility is about 5 kilometres away from Kisoro town. Depending on the Batwa community you are from, people trek a good distance to come here. Ruceri village is about 30 kilometres away and many people from this village also walk to get service at Mutorere while a few afford parting with over 6000 shillings hiring a motor cycle for a single route journey for one person.

Ssendegeya Emmanuel aged 29 years comes from Birara Batwa Community which is about 27 kilometrers from this hospital. He is a carpenter but I found him at the hospital because he is on TB treatment.

Nurse Katto Justine, the CCMB Cordinator at St. Francis Hospital Mutorere interating with one of the patients Ssendegeya Emmanuel at his hospital bed. When i visited the hospital, Ssendegeya had spent 6 days in the isolation unit
Nurse Katto Justine, the CCMB Cordinator at St. Francis Hospital Mutorere interating with one of the patients Ssendegeya Emmanuel at his hospital bed. When i visited the hospital, Ssendegeya had spent 6 days in the isolation unit

The day in found him at this health facility (10th December, 2015), he had been there for six days with his wife attending to him. “I have been here with my wife for close to a week now. All is well. I get medicine and am regularly checked on by the professionals. My wife and I get food from these people (the hospital management). I hope for a quick recovery and hope to be discharged soon”, a weak toned Ssendegeya told me from his hospital bed in the isolation wing.

 

CCMB Project at a Glance

Credited for changing the lives of the Batwa, this project started in 2009.

According to Katto Justine- registered nurse and midwife who is the project coordinator the need for this initiative emanated from their observations and findings during the numerous community outreach projects they used to carry out as a hospital. “We found out that the Batwa are poor and they had difficulties accessing health services. Mortality was high in the Batwa communities especially among women and children. It is this that made us think of ways to help these people” she narrated.

In 2009, the hospital patterned with CARE- an international NGO to scale up community health out reaches in the Batwa communities. “We started with 12 community outreach centres. During these outings, we emphasized the need to visit hospitals, did a number of tests, treated diseases and also carried out monitoring of pregnant women”, She explained adding that the drive saw a surge in the number of Batwa visiting health facilities after some time. With sensitization, Katto elaborates, the Batwa have improved on sanitation and personal hygiene though there is much to improve on.

In 2011, the CARE partnership came to an end and Sustain for Life- another NGO came on board. This organization foots the hospital bills and also pays for the food rations given to the patients and their care takers.

The hospital now receives about four Batwa pregnant women per month seeking antenatal services. As of today, 20 Batwa women are taking family planning services from St. Francis hospital. “Though the numbers are low, it’s a big step and an achievement- considering that we started from zero”, an enthusiastic Katto- an enrolled nurse by profession noted.

 

Outstanding Health Challenges Among the Batwa

As already highlighted, sanitation is still a huge health challenge among the Batwa. With poor sanitation, this community is not at all safe from diseases.

Due to the Batwa’s Landless nature, food is still a huge mountain to climb. Consequently, malnutrition cases among the Batwa children are high. The most affected are children. “Due to poor shelter and clothing, we get many cases of pneumonia among the Batwa children”, Katto elaborated but added that under the CCMB project, they are now giving mothers free baby clothing kits.

According to Katto, another huge health challenge is HIV and Positive living among the Batwa. Like any other community in Uganda, the Batwa are also affected by HIV/AIDS.

Some people are positive but very few know their HIV status. According Katto, the CCMB project encourages HIV testing during the community outreaches but very few test to know their status. Those who test positive, she adds are enrolled on treatment and closely monitored. However, she notes that positive living is a big challenge. “Adherence to treatment is a huge challenge because the Batwa are always on the move. Because of little food, taking medicine is difficult and positive living in now a huge challenge.

Traditions like sharing of women have increased the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases”, Katto further narrated to me during our detailed discussion in her office at St. Francis hospital- Mutorere.

Birth rate among the Batwa is high and uptake of family planning services is still very poor. According to Katto, after years of sensitization, they have registered 20 Batwa women who are using family planning. “This is a small number but a positive step”, she observes.

Despite all this, the Batwa are moving forward and the future looks brighter. Peninah Zaninka- the head of the Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (OBDU) observes that the Batwa have come from far and despite the challenges, they hope for a better tomorrow. According to Zaninka, the key to making the lives of the Batwa better is solving the land question- in other words; getting the Batwa Land to stay on and do developmental projects.

 

Batwa Resettlement Efforts

For over the years, non- governmental organizations have tried to resettle the Batwa. Organizations like the Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (OBDU), ADRA Uganda, CARE International, Bwindi Mugahinga Trust, the Adventist church and may others have bought land in several areas of Kisoro, Kanungu and Kabale districts where they have resettled some Batwa.

The Batwa in these areas are living in decent houses and have land for cultivation. As of December 2015, the Batwa had been resettled in Kabahenda, Butoobo, Kamugyemani all in Busanza Sub County- Kisoro district, Rubuguri, Nteko, and Nyakabande in Kisoro district.

In Kabale district, the Batwa have been resettled in Karengyere in Muko, Murambo, Ekinyarushengye and in Rubindi. In Kanungu, the Batwa have been resettled in Buhuma where they live today.

When I visited Kabahenda, Rubuguri, Nteko, Murambo, Karengyere and Buhuma communities where the Batwa have been resettled, I observed that the people here are living a more organized life, fully integrated into the community, sanitation levels are better, they are engaged in cultivation and they are more positive about life compared to those in communities like Kisoro Town, Ruceri village and other areas where the Batwa are living as squatters.

Voices of the People

Winnie Mukandinda- Land rights Officer at OBDU:

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Winnie Mukandinda- Land rights Officer at OBDU

 

The Batwa are such an interesting group of people with potential to do a lot. They have come from far and the future looks bright for them. Government of Uganda ought to come out now and work with the non- governmental organizations to address challenges of the Batwa especially Land. They were evicted from the forests without compensation and this injustice ought to be corrected.

Milton Mutabazi Bazanye, Chairman Kisoro District (2011-2015); As a leader I wish to see all the Batwa settled. As a district we have plans to resettle them but this is a long term project. We salute organizations that have really helped to resettle the Batwa much as more are still squatting. If the Batwa get land like those who have been resettled, we will be able to see their productivity and poverty among them will be history.

 

Sam Byibesho- the Kisoro Municipality Mayor (2011-16); When you compare the Batwa living in Kisoro town with those living in rural areas especially those who have been resettled, you realize that we need to get these people where they can call home.

Sam Byibesho Mayor Kisoro Town (2011-2016)
Sam Byibesho- the Kisoro Municipality Mayor (2011-16)

Addressing the Batwa land question is key but this needs all the stake holders to come on board. “ I propose that to get the Batwa on the same footing with the rest in development, after handling their land needs, we should come up with an affirmative action to economically empower them”, he notes.

 

Nyamihanda Alice- an Educated Mutwa: The Batwa have been marginalized for long.

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Nyamihanda Alice- an Educated Mutwa, currently working with OBDU

“We deserve better than this”. Am glad many Batwa children are now accessing education, many people are now engaged in income generating projects, the Batwa now access quality health care and of course the support from the NGOs is good.

However, one worrying aspect is the sustainability for some of these projects like the Health project at Mutorere hospital. “As a Mutwa, I believe we need a representative in Parliament who can be our voice and articulate our issues”, the 27 year old who dreams of representing her area in Parliament notes.

 

Ronah Ritah Ninsiima- The Kabale District Woman Member of Parliament (2011-2016): As leaders we must consider the plight of the Batwa people and see how to help them settle in the community.

rona
Hon. Ninsiima Ronah Ritah wants to see the Batwa benefit more from government programs and initiatives

They must also benefit from government programs like Operation Wealth creation, NAADS, Youth Livelihood fund but if they are still landless, they might not and they will unfortunately stay poor.

 

Tibamanya William Kisoso- The Mbarara district speaker (2011-2015);

Tibamanya William Kisoso- Speaker Mbarara district (2011-2016)
Tibamanya William Kisoso- The Mbarara district speaker (2011-2015)

I have visited families of the Batwa living in Mbarara district (Nyakayojo Sub County). The truth is, these people need to be loved, treated well, welcomed and they must enjoy every public good like all other Ugandans. Because of the historical injustice they faced, an affirmative action is needed to improve the situation they are in today.

 

John Justice Tibesigwa- Senior Warden Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; John Justice Tibesigwa- Warden Bwindi Impenetrable National ParkToday, we enjoy a good relationship with the Batwa. Many of them operate as tour guides in the national park where they get income, the areas neighboring the park where some Batwa stay benefit from the revenue sharing program. We are working with the Batwa leader and the district leadership to identify their former worshipping and ancestral places so that we preserve these places and also allow Batwa access to these important places.

 

 

The Gold- Poverty Paradox of Geita- An Inside Story

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By Abenaitwe Cliff

At the mention of Gold presence in an area, wealth expectations justifiably increase and when its mining is on, the area ought to change for the better. However, the story is different in Geita district located in the North Western part of Tanzania where gold mining has been taking place for over 50 years now.

Poor sanitary conditions, shanty dusty towns and trading centres, use of rudimentary tools, high population growth rate, high rate of rural urban migration, high number of idle youth and poor sanitation are a characteristic of Geita district located over 700 kilometres North of the capital Dar es Salaam.

In 1999, Angro-Gold Ashanti(GGM as it is popularly known)- a giant mining company got a license to mine gold  the area something that gave the residents most of whom were engaged in small scale mining hope for a brighter future. “When GGM came in, we thought large scale well managed gold production will increase and the whole area will develop,” says Barutwanayo Bernard, a native of Nyakabale in Geita district.

According to Baruntwanayo, the residents expected the company to provide them with jobs, contribute to the social welfare of the area through it taxes, fees and loyalties but this is still a dream after over 10 years.

On reaching the district’s main town of Geita, the streets are dusty, the schools along the road are in a poor state, people live in poor houses and a big number of youth can be seen on the streets idle as early as noon. “Our lives have not changed at all. I have tried to get a job in the mines but all in vain and this is the same situation with all my friends. If you do not know anyone in the mines or if you do not have money to bribe, you cannot get a job there”, a visibly worried young man Baraka Butundo noted adding that the mine owners usually get their own laborers from as far as Dar es Salaam.

Geita district commissioner Manzie Mangochie talking to journalists under the revenue watch program at his office.
Geita district commissioner Manzie Mangochie talking to journalists under the revenue watch program at his office.

Authorities in this relatively new district share the same view. Manzie Mangochie the District Commissioner reveals that the mining company pays only 200,000 dollars annually as loyalty fee to the district a figure which is like a drop in the ocean. “This money is little compared to the population, the size of the district and the needs of our people,” Mangochie told a group of journalist under the revenue watch program at his office in Geita town.

According to the jolly Mangochie, much as GGM pays taxes to the government, its direct relevance to the area is still a dream.

Though the situation is not desirable something can be done on the legislative front. “We need to change on the laws concerning the mining sector. There is a need to empower local leaders and communities to have a say in mining contracts because it’s their areas to gain or lose,” he elaborated.

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This is Geita town. Potholed roads, dust and poor houses are typical characteristics of the town that is sitting on gold.

These photos were taken from different areas of Geita district to show the situation on the ground.

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A cross section of Geita town. You will all agree with me, this place doesnot look gold.

 

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Part of Geita town-a stone throw away from the vast gold mine.

 

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The quality of people’s houses outside Geita town leaves alot to be desired

 

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Many young and energetic youth are unable to get jobs in the mines. They resort to this economic activity of crushing stones they steal from the GGM mining area to get gold from them.That is how they earn a living.

 

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One of the journalists looking on as one of the residents in the outskirts of the GGM gold mine crushes the stones looking for gold.

 

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This is Nyakabale village near the main gold mine. Locals in this area live in poor conditions.

 

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Looking for survival at all costs.These people in Geita are looking for gold from soil deposits.

 

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Its not only the youth but even the old women. This arises questions over the agricultural productivity in this area. Observers think these ladies should be in gardens as the youth look for money.

 

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The technology used by small scale miners is too rudimentary.

 

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This photo is of a collection of homesteads in Nyakabale village which is occupied by small scale and illegal miners.

 

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Small scale miners use dangerous methods in their quest for Gold. In this photo, mercury is mixed in the sad in the process of gold seeking. Health experts reveal that mercury is dangerous to human life

 

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With increased influx of people looking for opportunities in the gold mines, such houses and towns are expected to come-up.

 

Bio-Science key to Achieving MDG1 in Africa

Aside Posted on Updated on

Bio-Science key to Achieving MDG1 in Africa

 

Cliff Abenaitwe

African countries have a long way to go if they are to achieve the
millennium development goal one (MDG1) of halving by 2015 the
proportion of people suffering from extreme hunger and poverty.
Less than 3 years to the deadline, the continent is still synonymous
with millions living below the poverty line and it is still affected
by hunger which seems to be going nowhere.

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African continent still has millions of poorly fed children despite its rich Agricultural potential.

According to the UN food and agriculture 2010-2011, sub Saharan Africa is home to 26 percent of the world’s undernourished population, has the highest number of countries experiencing food emergencies due to in part, to climate extremes such as drought and exacerbated by civil unrest. The same reports reveals that Sub Saharan African still experiences increased food imports and is very vulnerable to global food price increases.
Experts attribute this trend to the poor performance of the agricultural sector.
The academy of science of South Africa (ASSAF) in its 2012 regulation
of agricultural GM technology in Africa report reveals that the poor
performance of the agricultural sector undermines Africa’s prospects
of attaining the MDGs and sustainable development in general. “The low agricultural productivity is associated with a wider range of
factors, including low investments in education, infrastructure,
research and development and over reliance on convectional technologies”, the report explains.
The solution for Africa is to improve the performance of the
agricultural sector.
However this report warns that much as the application of the best
conventional agricultural technologies can make significant
contribution to improving food security, it is not sufficient in
itself. “ The expansion of cultivated land through mechanization and provision of fertilizers can make a positive impact on food security in Africa but further benefits can be achieved by the application of modern biotechnology methods to plant improvement programs, principally for the so-called ‘orphan crops’ of particular importance to Africa”, the
report suggests.

According to Doctor Fen Beed, a pathologist from the USA who has worked in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Ghana, it would be surprising if Africa met the MDG1 by 2015 but according to him, this can be achieved in years to come.“If African countries can adopt bio-technology and other good farming practices, poverty and hunger can be reduced but this will be after 2015,” he added.

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Expanding Agricultural productivity in Africa coupled with bio-technology and other good farming practices is key in attaining MDG1

Other scientists also agree with Doctor Beed on the role of bio-technology in agricultural improvement in Africa.

In the book Insights; Africa’s future.. can bioscience contribute?, Calestous Juma, a world renown scientist argues that African agriculture will need to intensify the use of science and technology more than would have been the case without the threats of climate change. “Investment in science and technology will be required along the entire agricultural value chain from resource intelligence through production, marketing, storage and ecological rehabilitation,” he explains.

Synonymous with what the researchers are recommending, African countries are making commendable progress in the use of Bio-science.

At Mukono zonal agricultural research and development institute research into improved crop species is under way and the institute has already developed improved fruit varieties. “The breeds we are developing as a result of grafting and cross breeding are disease resistant, quick maturing and high yielding,” Robinah Gafabusa, a fruits and vegetables research technician at this institute explains.

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Planting of poor crop varieties will give you poor yields and this further deepens poverty and hunger problem in Africa.

At the National research Organization NARO, researchers are developing different crop varieties to help farmers cope with the problem of diseases and low yields. According to Tendo Sali Lauben, a crop breeder at NARO, they have already developed banana varieties like M20, M9, M21 which mature fast, are disease resistant and they give high yields.

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The difference is clear. Improved Banana varieties will give better yields.

Numerous research institutions and scientists are currently working on developing different Bio- technologies and the African continent is getting itself ready for genetically modified technologies. However, Doctor Charles Lagu from the Mbarara agricultural research and development institute is calling for more sensitization of the farmers to adapt to these technologies if the current efforts are to bear fruits.

It is estimated that by 2050, the world population will increase to 9 billion people and this will increase food demand. The food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) is predicting that food production will need to increase by 70 percent.

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If Africa embraces Bio-technology and other good farming practices, agricultural input will be increased. This will give people enough to eat and the surplus for the market.

To me, scientists and researchers, embracing Bio technology and genetically modified technology for agricultural improvement is the way to go and we all have a role to play in this.