Tuesday, 11 July 2017

US Government pledges $62,7 million to support refugees in Uganda

Press Release:

On July 8, the United States once again demonstrated its ongoing commitment to providing life-saving assistance to those affected by conflict with a pledge of nearly $639 million in additional humanitarian assistance. 

Upon the conclusion of the G20 summit in Germany, and following the June 23 Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees, the U.S. government announced this contribution, which will provide emergency food and nutrition assistance, medical care, and protection to the millions of people affected by food insecurity and violence in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. Some $62.7 million of this total is supporting the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Program (WFP) refugee assistance operations in Uganda.

The refugee situation in Uganda has reached crisis proportions. As of July 2017, there are some 1.3 million refugees in the country – including nearly 1 million who have sought safety from the violence in South Sudan – as well as refugees from Burundi, the DRC, and elsewhere. 

This influx has put increased pressure on the government of Uganda, local hosting communities, and international relief organizations to provide food, shelter, protection, water, and other basic services. Both WFP and UNHCR face significant funding gaps and are struggling to keep up with the rising demands of a growing refugee population – leading to food shortages and wider insecurity.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

​Training smallholder coffee farmers in Rwenzori in financial literacy

Coffee is the main source of income for many smallholder farmers in Rwenzori region. The fertile hills of Rwenzori are conducive for Arabica coffee growing. However, many smallholder farmers are not benefiting much from the crop sales.
Consider this example, smallholder coffee farmers in Katebwa, Rwenzori sometimes exchange a basin full of fresh red coffee berries for a kilogram of goat’s meat. This arrangement is locally called “embene  yo mwani” loosely translated as a “goat meat exchanged for coffee berries”. Petty but scheming businessmen dealing in local coffee trade would kill a goat and sell it to meat-hungry smallholder coffee farmers. The trader usually asks for a basin full of fresh coffee berries for a kilogram of goat's meat. A basin of fresh coffee berries when dried gives 4kg of cleaned  (hauled) coffee beans. A kilogram of hauled coffee (husks removed) beans costs UGX6000. This implies that impatient and unorganized smallholder coffee farmers lose UGX24000 (aboust $7) in cash.

The trade in embene yo'mwana  can be categorized as unfair. Farmers in Rwenzori mountains should be sensitized about financial literacy so that they can develop a culture of saving and investment to benefit more from their farming. To achieve this, farmers have to be organized, and that's the main objective of this project.
Close to a million people live on the slopes of Rwenzori mountains in the Ugandan side. These people derive a livelihood from small scale farming with coffee being the main cash crop for many.
Arabica coffee contributes 15% of the coffee produced in Uganda. Most of the Arabica coffee is grown in the hills of Kigezi (South-Western Uganda), Mbale (Eastern) and Rwenzori (Western).
Smallholder coffee farmers in Rwenzori are not benefiting much from the sale of their coffee because they are largely unorganized. The middlemen (coffee brokers), local area coffee petty traders buy the coffee from the farmers at very low prices. Most smallholder farmers sell fresh coffee berries. This leaves them with little benefit from their coffee.
In addition, more farmers pre-sell their coffee berries while they are still green in the field. They have no financial literacy. The farmer is in constant need for cash yet he/she has less or no sources of income other than the coffee field. Given that coffee if harvest mainly once in a year the farmer will only get cash in the months when the crop is ripe. This makes the farmer prone to temptation of borrowing from the middlemen to sustain his household cash needs.
The cooperative societies that would be advising the farmer, bargaining for better market prices and organizing the smallholder farmers to produce high quality coffee, are non-existent in Rwenzori. Yet, having such and other farmer organization mechanisms would help the small scale farmer get better coffee prices and improve their livelihoods.
Justification for the project
Smallholder coffee farmers in Katebwa and Karangura subcounties in Kabarole district, Rwenzori region, Western Uganda, lose double by selling fresh coffee berries.  First they are given lower prices. Second they lose the coffee husks which would be used as manure in their coffee fields e.g. if the coffee is hauled by the farmers group, the husks can easily be given to farmers to use as manure. Secondly, the unorganized smallholder farmers have no power to negotiate for better prices.
Organize farmers in groups the aim is to create a cooperative, a coffee depot
Objectives include:
·         The objective of this project is to  organize farmers in groups; train smallholder Arabica coffee farmers’ groups  in good agricultural practices and financial literacy.
·         The expected outcome is that  this will in the end enable the farmer in Rwenzori mountains make informed financial decisions to improve their livelihood.
·         Empower farmers about coffee marketing and
·         Encourage adherence to quality control mechanism


Friday, 16 June 2017

Most harvest-money calculations in Uganda's media are Confusing

The Uganda mainstream media reports on agriculture should do the farming money (profits) calculations carefully. Refer to this http://www.monitor.co.ug/…/689860-2289088-qknjo5z/index.html 

That story alleges that in an acre one can plant 1000 Robusta coffee trees and that's the base for the profit calculations in the story. This is not true. 

According to Uganda Coffee Development Authority the recommended spacing for Robusta coffee is 3metres by 3metres therefore an acre will have 450 plants if a farmer follows the recommended plant spacing. 

For Arabica coffee recommended spacing is 2.5metres x2.5metres giving 680 plants per acre. So inaccurate acreage information passed to the public was that an "acre of 1000 robusta coffee trees can yield 8000kg per year"; something so exaggerated. 

Coffee in Uganda is largely grown by small scale farmers who are not employing better agricultural practices; this in turn affects the yield. On average these farmers harvest 2kg per tree.

The habit of newspaper throwing out "harvest money calculations" should be triple-checked. Otherwise most of the amounts of money presented is usually out of touch and outrageous.

In the end, this creates false hope in minds of people who look at agriculture as a business venture, and eventually, disillusionment when they fail to get anywhere near the amount of money they read in the newspaper agriculture columns.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Understanding the fall armyworm attacking Uganda farmers

Farmers in over 60 districts of Uganda are struggling to contain the (American) fall armyworm pest which has inflicted considerable destruction on one of the most grown crops, maize. But it appears this is just one part of the story if the fall armyworm is not eradicated soon, the loss will go beyond maize. There are two types of armyworms, the African and the American.

Here is a simple description of one researcher: "The African armyworm, Spodoptera exempta is endemic in most of Africa including Uganda. The (American) fall armyworm is scientifically named Spodoptera frugiperda. This is the armyworm affecting a number of countries in Africa including various districts in Uganda. The African armyworm has been reported to affect sorghum, sugarcane, millet, rice, maize, barley, oats, wheat and ginger. However, the fall armyworm has even a wider host range. In addition to those, affected by the African armyworm, it also feeds on cotton, millet, groundnut, soybean, tobacco, orange, pawpaw and a number of flowers."

Some scientists say the fall armyworm can have 10 to 12 cycles and one can lay between 50 and 300 eggs under a host plant leaf. In warm temperature the fall armyworm takes only 30 days to develop from egg to adult. 

It is said the fall armyworm is a migratory pest therefore one may not do much to prevent its entry into any area. The only solution is to eradicate it. How we are performing on this front is another story.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Uganda government should double its efforts to fight the maize army worm

The fall army worm is a threat to food security in Uganda and the East African region at large. The army worm, which was first reported in Southern African countries, has spread to Rwanda and Kenya. 
This worm does not just attack and destroy maize alone it also attacks millet, sorghum and sugarcane. To make the already bleak food situation in the country worse the army worm is proving resistant to available pesticides. 

According to Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture our farmers in their largely subsistence efforts have been producing 4 million tonnes of maize annually. But because of the army worm destruction which is reported in over 60 districts, there will be reduced production of maize in the country. 

By end of April 2017, according to the commissioner of crop production in the Ministry of Agriculture, the farmers have already lost 15% of this year's maize production to the fall army worm. This 15% loss does not include the losses maize farmers in some parts of the country have incurred due to crop failure resulting from drought. 

This means the price of maize flour which is a staple food for many Ugandans and schools will double as supply will reduce. The efforts to fight the army worm should be doubled otherwise we are headed for a serious food insecurity crisis. The hallmarks of this crisis are already manifested in areas like Katakwi and Isingiro districts which are receiving food handouts. The time to walk the talk is now .

Friday, 17 February 2017

Rwenzori conflict: Break the silence about the Bwesumbu beatings and arrests

As the people of Rwenzori are trying to heal from the the November 27, 2016 Rwenzururu palace attack, fear is griping the communities. The fear and tension emanate from search and cordon operations conducted by Uganda security personnel.

On Tuesday 14 February 2017, residents of Bwesumbu subcounty (Kasese district) were left in shock as security operatives stormed the villages in the area hunting for suspected members of the Rwenzururu royal guards who are said to have failed to heed the ultimatum to surrender to government of Uganda.

It's reported that in the process, there was massive beatings and arrests of people in Bwesumbu, Kabatunda and surrounding areas by security operatives who were allegedly searching for guns lost during the November 26, 2016 attack on a police post in this area.

According to eye witnesses, a team of army and police personnel mobbed up the areas in the mountainous Bwesumbu sucounty, Kasese district, beating up whoever they suspected and arrested a good number of locals.

The security operatives were reportedly being guided by a  resident only identified as "Kibido". The Bwesumbu LC3 chairman, Samson Bagenda, said he has already talked to the area UPDF commander to work with local leaders to "solve" the challenge.

"These operations usually happen when I'm away; I wonder why," says Bagenda who is on a study leave.

This indiscriminate operation which involves cordon and search can be likened to a fishing method known as "kayora" which means no discrimination against mature and immature fish.

While security operatives should do their constitutionally enshrined mandate of protecting the country, they should be mindful of the rights of those they seek to arrest and interrogate.

This kayora sort of operation is creating fear in the population. This may further increase the feeling among the mountain people that they are being persecuted.

Among the innocent people caught up this operation beatings was a university student who was on a holiday break. Another victim was woman only identified as Sylvia who was also reported to have been badly beaten.

This method of arresting where the suspects are tortured in presence of their loved ones is dehumanizing and demeaning to say the very least. Even in absence of their loved ones, no one should be beaten or tortured with the aim of extracting information from them. This behaviour is creating fear in the community.

Two, the security operatives should be aware of local and petty rivalries within communities where some elements will always want to take advantage of the fragile situation to frame innocent people just to settle scores.
This is not to say wrong elements in society should be left to roam around and cause havoc.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Rwenzururu king freed on bail as loyalists remain jailed

Rwenzururu cultural leader, Charles W. Mumbere Iremangoma was granted bail on February 6 by Uganda's High Court sitting in the eastern town of Jinja.

Mumbere had been arrested on November 27, 2016 after the Uganda security forces stormed his palace and killed over 100 suspected loyalists. This was after the king had allegedly defied an order by President Yoweri Museveni to disband hundreds of royal guards who had been in the palace. Mumbere was arrested with over 140 loyalists who include his prime minister, cooks, juveniles, drivers, etc.

Photo by Chimp Reports
Uganda security forces' attack on the Rwenzururu palace was condemned as having been excessive force.

Mumbere was released on a non-cash bail of Shs100 million (about $27,400).

 In mid January, Mumbere had been granted bail by the same court only to be re-arrested within the court precincts by the Uganda security officers on fresh charges of alleged robbery, terrorism and attempted murder.

The February 6 bail therefore was a sigh of relief for hundreds of thousands of Mumbere's subjects in the Rwenzori mountains, in Western Uganda.

But, the excitement about Mumbere's release on bail was short-lived as his subjects understood his bail conditions. The bail conditions seemed to state that Mumbere was changing from a government prison to "house arrest" of sorts.

He cannot travel to Rwenzori sub region, where his kingdom is based, unless courts of law allow him. He will only freely travel within Kampala, Wakiso and Jinja districts under the watchful eye of Uganda security personnel.

Only close family members, lawyers and doctors of Mumbere can visit him at his house. Others who wish to visit the traditional leader have to seek permission of the Uganda police.

Some people have been asking about the fate of the loyalists arrested together with Mumbere. The officials of Rwenzururu cultural institution say their first target was to secure the release of the king and later the arrested loyalists.

Behind the scenes meetings and negations are taking place to have the loyalists released out of Kirinya Prison.

We can hope that people of Rwenzori can intensify the healing and reconciliation process to guarantee lasting peace in the region.