District chairpersons have said the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) programme has failed to deliver Ugandans out of poverty.
Speaking at a sector meeting of local government chairpersons in Kampala yesterday, Soroti Municipality mayor Paul Omer said his people had failed to recover their agricultural investment.
He said farmers growing mangoes and oranges failed to get market for their fruits and suffered huge losses.
Mr Omer also said a seedling under OWC costs Shs18,000 compared to Shs1,000 on the open market.
He asked Lt Gen Charles Angina, the OWC chief coordinator, to rectify the situation before farmers abandon the programme.
“Procurement at one time reached Shs18,000 a seedling and it was coming from Kampala. When they reached there, they all died. We are not all soldiers here. Some words must be reserved for the army and some words be reserved for elected leaders. What should I tell those people who have those seedlings? They are now sold everywhere,” Mr Omer said.
Mr Jude Mbabaali, the Masaka District chairperson, demanded an update on OWC activities, and state whether they had failed to implement the agreement to work with local government chairpersons.
“Update us on why as OWC, you are miserably failing to implement this agreement. If there are problems, we can share them,” Mr Mbabaali said.
His Mityana counterpart Kibuuka Francis Amooti called for value addition if they are to realise higher production.
Mr Sam Muloni (Budaka) said farmers in his district threatened to cut down all the mango trees because a sack of the fruits costs a paltry Shs35,000, which does not cover the cost of investment.
“Farmers were threatening to cut down the mango trees because they did not prove a viable source of income that would pull them out of poverty,” he said.
Army speaks out
In response, Gen Angina admitted OWC has had challenges, but added that they are ready to work with district leaders to involve their input in their planning so as to capture the needs of every community.
Many local government chairpersons said there was hardly any difference between OWC and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads).
“We acknowledge that OWC was not effective. We agreed to come together with local governments to ensure we become more effective. We shall not take the path of National Agricultural Advisory Services. Naads did their part and they failed and we were called to come in because they had failed. But we know we can’t do much without you,” Gen Angina said.
“We have our challenges. You have your own challenges. But we can together achieve. I have engaged the Permanent Secretary [of Local Government] to make sure you are represented in all positions to ensure that your interests are not left out,” he added.
OWC was established by President Museveni in July 2013 to eradicate poverty and facilitate growth of households’ income, mainly through agriculture.
Gen Angina said the President’s initiative of Agro-Industrialisation for Local Economic Development (AGRILED), which was piloted in Rwenzori Sub-region, is ready to be rolled out across the country.
“The whole country is going to have the same model of AGRILED. Begin preparing your people so that they are not shocked. They will be able to embrace it and put it in the master plan and think of what can do well in their region,” Gen Angina said.
AGRILED initiative was started under OWC to ensure value addition on raw agricultural products through agro processing to increase their competitiveness on world market.
Mr James Ategeka, the Bunyangabu District chairperson, said he was disappointed with the OWC implementation.
“Gen Angina joined us later. We started it. Moved with it, produced a baby, and now the baby comes to local government. I see the baby has been murdered. We got guidelines of AGRILED. Looking at them, there is no political leader. This rhetoric has gone on for some time. It is not only AGRILED. There are many other issues,” Mr Ategeka said.
However, Mr Ben Kumumanya, the Local Government Permanent Secretary, interjected, saying: “You have come with your frustration from Munyangabu and you are bringing it to the first meeting of the sector. Get some lessons on how human relations are managed in governance of society.”
Gen Angina told the district leaders that instead of advocating factories to be everywhere, they should push for improvement of the transport system to ensure their produce reach the available factories.
On the issue of procurement, Gen Angina said: “We don’t do procurement and contracts. You must impound anything below quality. If you don’t, it means you endorse it. There are some of you who go and say we are bringing cows, which are doing family planning. But we don’t do procurement and we don’t inspect. It’s done by Naads. You must have authority to demand what is being put in the service centre in the hub. If you fail, you have endangered the entire country.”
OWC was established by President Museveni in July 2013 with an aim of eradicating poverty and facilitate growth of households’ income, mainly through agriculture.
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