A visit to a village in Hoima reveals a scary condition: people have given up their subsistence farming in preparation for the oil wealth. It appears people were told they would get the oil money even without working for it.
The challenge in Hoima is that most people displaced by the oil exploitation developments lack the minimum training needed to make them employable. Some people this magazine spoke to expressed dissatisfaction at the way the compensation had been handled.
Some got money they did not know how to use and now they are broke with no home to go to. It is unfortunate that no alternative land was bought to resettle these people rather than paying them money.
It appears a lot has been said about oil, but there is no clarity of the strategy yet on how the average Ugandan will benefit. Let us not forget of what is happening to the Ogoni and other groups of people living in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil-producing region and the largest oil-producing region in Africa. It is reported that oil exploitation has left large areas of the Niger Delta contaminated by gas flares, spills and leakages and unusable for farming. A lot needs to be done to prevent that kind of scenario.
Ugandans, particularly Banyoro, must be careful of false hopes from oil exploitation as the real beneficiaries will be from outside and a few technocrats and politicians at the centre of contracting and management of the oil resources.
There is no clear programme to improve people’s readiness for gainful employment in the oil sector. Smallholder farmers are not being mobilized or helped in any way to improve their production in terms of quality, quantity and value addition to supply to oil workers. It is so unfortunate that most of the food supplies at the exploitation sites are procured outside of Uganda!
World Bank research reports indicate that smallholders account for over 95% of Uganda’s farmers and therefore must be helped to improve their yield, add value to it and sell it. Ask any policymaker of the best strategic intervention for Uganda, they will say modernization of agriculture with a focus on smallholder farmers by strengthening their land rights, improving agricultural practices, value addition and access to markets. As of now, all these things are still on paper. It is painful to see our leaders saying the right things but looking the other way when it comes to implementation. And that is why the ban on selling unprocessed milk is very unfortunate. First establish farmers into cooperatives. Empower each group with milk processing machinery. And give them, say, a year to stop selling unprocessed milk. That way, you will be empowering farmers not the fly-by-night investors who run at any slightest challenge.
In this issue, find the implications of BAT exit by transferring the manufacturing plant to Kenya, how to promote Uganda’s tourism and why Ugandans are more enterprising than Kenyans.