Museveni Declares war on environmental degredation
President Museveni has declared war on environmental degradation and wants natural forests protected to preserve water catchment areas and ensure reliable rainfall essential for our nature-dependent agriculture.
He abandoned his convoy and walked instead to inspect a wetland and did sit under the trees in the cool breeze of Mabira rainforest, to symbolise his new commitment.
We welcome the President’s change of heart almost a decade after foresighted Ugandans rejected his attempt to dole out a substantial part of Mabira forest for sugarcane growing. Ten years is a long time and many things have changed. Shifting, indeed grossly unpredictable, weather patterns mean farmers are no longer certain about suitable plantation seasons or expected farm yields despite their best efforts.
As such, 7.2 million Ugandans are currently food stressed and facing starvation. The number of famished citizens is predicted to increase. The President’s amplified messaging on environmental protection, climate change and food security followed his launch, jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Representative Rosa Malango, of relief food distribution in the eastern Kaliro District.
It is telling that the food aid was launched in Busoga region which has the country’s largest sugarcane plantation.
And Presidency minister Esther Nambayo framed the irony more aptly: “The problem in Busoga region is that there are 10 districts all engaged in sugarcane growing as a source of income all year round to feed eight sugar processing factories. No more food crops are being grown. Busoga is no longer a national food basket.”
Local leaders should guide small land owners against contracting out as sugarcane out-growers, unless they have an alternative profitable enterprise, and the President should stop marketing sugarcane growing as a panacea to rural poverty.
That millions of our citizens in a country, which is 15 per cent covered by water, cannot feed themselves due to crop failure in the absence of irrigation — and, therefore, have to rely on food handouts — is an irony of disastrous proportion, colossal leadership failure and national shame.
It is clear the government’s gamble, first with the National Agricultural Advisory Services and now the army-administered Operation Wealth Creation, are a non-starter.
Let us resort to commonsense solutions: Distribute to farmers and step up regulated use of fertilisers to increase farm yields, deploy extension workers at sub-counties to work directly with individual farmers or cattle keepers and implement countrywide, not selective irrigation system.
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