Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World

Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World
Red Roses for You, My Sweet Friends ... Total Love.

My Sweet Friends

My sweet friends,

We grow closer to each other;

When we interact together and share ideas;

The common faith that we share,

Binds our hearts in one accord.

For sweet friendships last a life time,

When built on mutual respect, humility and understanding;

Throughout each different season,

We find we are one in life.

Sweet friends are there through times of grief;

And times when hope is gone;

Always there with encouragement;

So we can carry on.

I thank the Lord for you,

My true and faithful friends;

To fondly speak with you, whether we agree or not,

On this, our beloved blog;

For sweet friends will stay, no matter what;

Giving support.

Together, our hearts and minds truly unite;

With the amazing love of sweet friends.

In the spirit of true friendship,

Best wishes, my sweet friends;

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

I remain, yours truly,

B.B. Bakampa.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chronic Poverty In Uganda: Winning The Future

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. PELD–NALI-K; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB Student–Mak]

June 2011
This essay ably analyses and comprehends the problem of chronic poverty in Uganda. Proceeding under the theme, “winning the future”, section one examines the meaning of this concept, noting that it fundamentally differs from transient poverty. Section two analyses its underlying causes, observing that they are basically structural. Section three pays special consideration to its impact on the youth, finding that due to their vulnerability, it has far reaching consequences on them. Section four considers the solutions to the problem, emphasizing that the establishment of an effective institutional framework is key, alongside other specific measures. Section five optimistically concludes that chronic poverty is not a mind boggling problem as it is surmountable.

1.0  Introduction

Understanding chronic poverty in Uganda is a herculean task; it being a distinct dimension of poverty concerning the wretched of the earth. A lot of social, political and academic debate pertains to this matter yet the problem persists! This essay contributes to the ongoing debate under the theme, winning the future, cognizant of the wise counsel by Bobby Kennedy that, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.”

The term chronic poverty is an amalgam of two separate words: “chronic” and “poverty”; literally meaning the following:-

“Chronic” denotes a condition that is continual and lasting for a long time [1] while “poverty” means a state of being poor. [2] Then, “poor” means having little money. [3] It also means not having and not able to get the necessaries of life. [4]

Thus, what makes poverty chronic is the continued and long lasting condition of being poor, characterized by having little or insufficient money as well as inability to get the necessaries of life, like food, shelter, water and clothes. Chronic poverty should however, be distinguished from transient poverty. [5] Whereas the former is perpetual, the latter is rather temporary and somewhat seasonal. 

Thus, according to economists, “…chronically poor people are as those who have experienced poverty intensely in the severity or persistence sense.…those who either experience extended duration of poverty, or those who benefit the least and/or suffer most from contemporary development policies and practices, and for whom emergence from poverty is most difficult”. [6]

Hence, from an economic perspective, there is more to chronic poverty than just the lack of income to meet the basic requirements of life. Its common defining features are [7] multi-dimensionality, [8] severity [9] and long/extended duration. [10] Official statistics indicate that 39% of the households in Uganda are classified as poor, 31% live below the poverty line. [11] They survive on less than US 1.25$ a day, the World Bank’s redefined poverty threshold. [12]

Due to their vulnerability, [13] the youth, women, children (more so orphans), elderly, refugees and disabled people are more likely to be chronically poor, facing the possibility of intergenerational transmission.

2.0  Causes of chronic poverty

Chronic poverty in Uganda is attributed to many factors. Though non-exhaustive, they include the following:-

High population growth
In 2006, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimated total fertility rate at more than seven children per woman and noted that contraceptive use remains very low. [14] This inevitably leads to larger household size characterized by higher dependency ratio and lower levels of human capital, among others. [15]

Poor performance of agriculture
76% of the chronically poor are mainly engaged in agriculture as their main source of livelihood both in terms of employment and source of income. [16] But agriculture in Uganda is mainly rudimentary since there is insignificant mechanization––the hand hoe being the major tool of production!

Consequently, agriculture in Uganda is largely subsistence, relying on unskilled labour. By 2002, seven in every ten employed persons were subsistence agricultural workers, mainly depending on rain-fed agriculture. [17] Hardly any surplus is left for sale after harvest: even where there is, more often than not, it is of poor quality unable to fetch meaningful prices on the market. This exacerbates national balance of payment deficits.

The above issues render agriculture an almost worthless venture for farmers to engage in. With this state of agriculture, the people of Uganda are bound to end up in the web of chronic poverty.

Rural-urban inequality
The Human Development Report 2009 rightly noted that “Our world is very unequal.” [18] The likelihood to remain in chronic poverty is significantly higher for households residing in rural areas than in urban centres. [19] For example, in northern Uganda, which is the least developed region of the country, four in every ten households are living in chronic poverty and of these about 45 percent are in severe chronic poverty. [20] Karamoja sub-region has persistently remained the poorest and most underdeveloped area in Uganda. [21]

Apparently, this inequality mitigates the positive impact of national economic growth on poverty reduction. According to Honourable Nandala Mafabi, Leader of Opposition in Parliament, only 5% of Ugandans experience economic growth. [22] Therefore, there is a lack of tailor-made anti-poverty strategies that are more conducive to equitable growth.

Lack of education
Chronically poor people are associated with little or no education attainments. For example, research indicates that nearly one fifth of chronically poor households in Northern Uganda are uneducated. [23] The low education level among these Ugandans heightens their vulnerability and enhances their dependence on others, because without any training they are unable to engage in self-sustaining income generating activities. This renders them highly susceptible to acute poverty.

Civil strife and political instability
Uganda has been prone to violent civil strife and political instability, occasioning insecurity. Prolonged lack of stability made it impossible for people to settle down and engage in development activities, thereby plunging them into severe poverty. The youth played a critical role in these conflicts either as perpetrators or victims.

But the victims paid the heaviest price of the instabilities as the various wars and instabilities left them politically and economically disempowered. Rendered destitute by the wars, they now comprise a significant proportion of Uganda’s chronically poor people.

Right from the independence struggles, through the turbulent early post-independence era of 1962-1980, the 1981-1986 NRM/A guerilla war in Luwero triangle and subsequently, the LRA rebellion in northern Uganda, young people have directly participated in their occurrence and continuity. It is well known that the NRA and LRA recruited children and youth to serve as combatants in their military escapades.

Today, cattle rustling is engineered by armed youth as much as civil political clashes are precipitated by them. Even the illegal and brutal paramilitary outfits like the Kalangala Action Plan and the Kiboko Squad are manned by the youth!

Eventually, insecurity has and continues to be detrimental to Uganda’s development aspirations because it compromises investments, leading to loss of employment opportunities; thereby escalating poverty.

Corruption is that behaviour of persons and their actions that is immoral, depraved or dishonest especially portrayed through the offering and taking of bribes. [24] I have argued elsewhere, [25] that corruption promotes a negative business culture where it is perceived as a normal thing; the vice is glorified and rewarded either expressly or inadvertently.

In an economy like Uganda where corruption (in both the public and private sectors) is rampant, delivery of vital social services is compromised and this precipitates and perpetuates the occurrence of chronic poverty among the economically, politically and socially disenfranchised Ugandans.

In 2002, the Ministry of Finance highlighted excessive alcohol consumption as one of the key drivers and maintainers of chronic poverty especially in the rural countryside. [26] According to the 2004 World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Status Report on Alcohol, Ugandans as young as 15 years are involved in extreme alcohol consumption. [27] Apart from the money which is spent on drinks, heavy drinkers often suffer other economic problems such as lower wages and lost employment opportunities, increased medical expenses, and decreased eligibility for development opportunities such as Micro-Finance Loans and NAADS incentives, in addition to struggling with persistent indebtedness, inciting domestic violence and other social costs of treatment, prevention, research, law enforcement, lost productivity and some measure of years and quality of life lost by those who are directly affected. [28]

3.0 Chronic poverty and the youth

Chronic poverty affects Ugandan youth [29] in various ways. The factors influencing chronic poverty among youth are closely related such that it is not easy to distinguish between cause and effect. What is clear though is that depending on how far the individuals are below the poverty line, chronic poverty can be severe, intergenerational, causing them to suffer from multidimensional deprivation. Chronic poverty, nevertheless begets the following consequences upon the young people:-

Low income
Lack of sufficient incomes and assets to meet basic needs escalate poverty to chronic levels. As earlier mentioned chronic poverty emanates form hindrances of investments and consequently results into clogs on creation of employment opportunities. This negates acquisition of relevant skills necessary for the job market hence hindering youth employability and consequently earnings. It is at this material stage that poverty becomes chronic and intergenerational.

Reduction of life expectancy
Chronic poverty reduces life expectancy. Research indicates that members in chronically poor households are more likely to die prematurely as children than adults; moreover from easily preventable diseases, especially malaria. [30]

Chronic poverty causes malnutrition
A considerable number of Ugandans go hungry without food for a number of days. For those that are able to afford some food regularly, a substantial number survive on one meal per day which is even unbalanced, insufficient and deficient.

Low education levels
The chronically poor cannot afford the exorbitant cost of education prevailing in Uganda today. Even with the introduction of Universal Primary Education (U.P.E.) and now Universal Secondary Education (U.S.E.), there are reports that many children and school-going age youth do not go to school simply because they are unable to afford scholastic materials like books, pens, uniforms and meals.

Many of those who can afford, only access poor quality education and all this manifests in low literacy rates among Uganda’s young people. It is alleged for example, that in U.P.E. schools, some pupils finish Primary seven yet they cannot spell their names!

4.0 Addressing chronic poverty

Although chronic poverty poses huge challenges, they are nevertheless surmountable. Suffice to say that in light of the various government programmes and strategies put in place to ensure economic growth and poverty alleviation, an effective institutional framework is necessary to achieve this. It would go a long way in solving the problem of chronic poverty in Uganda and its attendant challenges like voicelessness, isolation and vulnerability. [31] In particular however, the following measures should be taken.

Encouraging migration
Human mobility can be hugely effective in enhancing human freedom, thereby alleviating poverty; both at places of origin [32] and destination. [33] At the former, it positively impacts on income and consumption, [34] education and health, as well as broader cultural and social processes. [35] At the latter, impacts can be seen through aggregate economic impacts, [36] labour market impacts, [37] rapid urbanization [38] and fiscal impacts. [39]

Modernization of agriculture
The heavy reliance on agriculture definitely suggests its importance in the country. The chronically poor have a higher dependency on agriculture as the main source of income; meaning that agriculture has the potential to alleviate them from acute poverty; thereby demonstrating that improving the lives of the people in this country cannot be divorced from improving the productivity of the agricultural sector. [40] Investing in agriculture should be the first step in reducing chronic poverty by addressing the infrastructure gaps that are necessary for promoting agricultural productivity. [41] Labour intensive techniques should be emphasized but in today’s competitive world, this labour should be abundant in skills, hence the need for long-term human resource development strategies.

De-communalizing land ownership
Chronic poverty is more prevalent in rural areas where land is either totally communally owned or held on individual family basis. This system of land holding is unproductive. It encourages land fragmentation which reduces the size of land owned and this increases the chances of chronic poverty. It also impedes free and secure land transfer in the form of buying and selling, mortgaging, pledging, to mention but a few, it inhibits commercially viable land transactions.

Therefore, there is need to re-adjust the system of land holding from group ownership (communal or family-centered) to individual ownership which facilitates flexible dealings in land, with the potential to ignite development. Most importantly, women, as the primary agents of production should be enabled to access and own land.

Increasing access to community infrastructure
Community infrastructure inter alia includes roads, markets, police stations, and social services like clean water and medical facilities. Poor access to infrastructure impacts on welfare of the population indirectly through high transaction costs and directly through inability to benefit from public services. [42] The infrastructure gaps are among the key constraints to improving agricultural productivity and in turn sustainable growth in Uganda. [43] Hence, bringing infrastructure close to people will reduce on the transaction costs and bring better job opportunities to them and in turn increase their participation in the process of growth.

Promoting education
Education plays a vital role in raising people’s welfare in the long run. Given the low education levels among most Ugandans, adult literacy programmes would go a long way in addressing chronic poverty among them, especially the youth. These should be put in place where they do not exist; and where they already exist, there is need to ensure that they are really operational. For example, education should sensitize the population about family planning services in order to reduce the domestic burden caused by many children.

As Makerere University’s Associate Professor of Law, Dr. John-Jean Barya observes, education should make people conscious of the underlying problems and the need to change the social set-up. Consequently, believing that the problems causing chronic poverty are structural, he says that the way out is to change the political structure and leadership. [44]

Fighting corruption
It is untenable that corruption wantonly devours our society unabated. Successfully fighting corruption requires self discipline and restraint. [45] The only fundamental requirement is a consistent renunciation of corruption as a matter of principle; for as a practical matter, it is impossible to battle corruption and, at the same time, use it to further one’s own interests. [46] Thus, it is paradoxical that the N.R.M. government preaches zero tolerance to corruption yet government ministers and bureaucrats are very corrupt!

Improving livelihoods
Livelihood is crucial for combating chronic poverty because livelihood strategies influence the economic condition of Ugandans. It has been observed that employment in the construction, manufacturing and trade sectors reduces chances of chronic poverty. Thus, job opportunities created outside agriculture significantly address the chronic poverty menace. Therefore, this shows a greater need to spur industrial development in the country.

Ensuring peace in the country
This is a necessary condition for effective implementation of government programmes like NAADS, NUSAF and Bonabagagawale (prosperity for all).

Combating alcoholism
First, is to avoid denial and recognize that excessive alcohol consumption is a growing problem, capable of seriously limiting Uganda’s social and economic progress, thereby plunging the country into deeper poverty. [47] Thereafter, adopt and implement policies, backed by enabling legislation, geared towards restricting both the amount of alcohol consumed and the time in which it is consumed. For example, in Botswana the government policy deliberately hiked prices to such a level that drinking is a luxury for a few. Moreover, selling alcoholic substances must stop by 11:00 p.m. and by midnight all bars and clubs should be closed. This is the kind of pragmatic discipline that Ugandan authorities ought to adopt.

5.0 Conclusion

In sum, the foregoing discussion shows that understanding the problem of chronic poverty in Uganda is no mean task: its causes are diverse, especially affecting young people quite extensively. Fortunately however, these challenges are not mind-boggling, as chronic poverty is an addressable issue. Therefore, winning the future against it is possible. Inspiration may be found in President Barack Hussein Obama’s conviction that, “In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.”

Notes and References

1.      A.S Hornby et all, OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY OF CURRENT ENGLISH, Oxford University Press, 1983, at p. 147.

2.      Ibid., at p. 664.

3.      Ibid., at p. 658.

4.      Ibid.

5.      This is synonymous with people who oscillate between moving in and out of poverty.

6.      John A. Okidi and Gloria K. Mugambe, An Overview of Chronic Poverty and Development Policy in Uganda, CPRC Working Paper 11, January 2002, at p. 4.

7.      See Chronic Poverty Research Centre/Development Research and Training, UNDERSTANDING CHRONIC POVERTY AND VULNERABILITY ISSUES IN KARAMOJA REGION: A DESK STUDY, June 2008, at p. 12.

8.      This means that the poor experience various forms of disadvantage simultaneously–for instance, powerlessness, insecurity, helplessness against corruption in public service delivery, exploitation/adverse incorporation, isolation/exclusion from the larger society, and increased vulnerability to natural and economic shocks. All these combine to keep people in poverty and block opportunities to escape.

9.      This refers to the fact that the poor experience horrendous deprivation and are the least likely to benefit from public policy or market-driven change. Severity of poverty therefore strongly overlaps with ‘chronicity’.

10.  This is the distinctive defining feature of chronic poverty because poverty that is both severe and multi-dimensional, but does not last a ‘long’ time, is by its nature not chronic.

11.  2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, Analytical Report, Abridged Version, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, at. p. 71.

12.  Rural 21-The International Journal for Rural Development, DLG-Verlags GmbH, Frankfurt Germany, at p. 6.

13.  This term denotes inability to participate in decision making that impact on welfare due to socio-political and economic disempowerment. It also means the risk or exposure of an individual or group of individuals to events that threaten or seriously damage one or more aspects of wellbeing; or the risk of falling into poverty.

14.  This figure corresponds with findings of the 1995 Uganda National Demographic and Health Survey which estimated fertility rates at 6.9.

15.  Sarah Ssewanyana, Combating Chronic Poverty in Uganda: Towards a New Strategy, May 2010, at p. 9.

16.  John A. Okidi and Gloria K. Mugambe, op. cit. at p. 14.

17.  2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, op. cit, at p. 73.

18.  Human Development Report 2009, OVERCOMING BARRIERS: HUMAN MOBILITY AND DEVELOPMENT, United Nations Development Programme, at p. 1.

19.  John A. Okidi and Gloria K. Mugambe, op. cit. at p. 17.

20.  Sarah Ssewanyana, op. cit. at p. 20.

21.  Chronic Poverty Research Centre/Development Research and Training, UNDERSTANDING CHRONIC POVERTY AND VULNERABILITY ISSUES IN KARAMOJA REGION: A DESK STUDY, op. cit. at p. 14.

22.  This was during a WBS Television political talk show, Issues At Hand, aired on Tuesday, 8th June, 2011, at 10 p.m.

23.  Sarah Ssewanyana, op. cit. at p. 9.

24.  Bakampa Brian Baryaguma, Pragmatically Fighting Corruption Through Collective Action: Challenges And Associated Solutions For Companies, World Bank Institute, 2009, at p. 3.

25.  Ibid., at p. 5.

26.  Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Drinking into deeper poverty: The new frontier for Chronic Poverty in Uganda, joint DRT & CPRC Policy Brief No.1/2007, June 2007, at p. 1.

27.  Ibid. According to the WHO report, Ugandans hold an unenviable first position in the world (out of 185 countries) of recorded per capita alcohol consumption in litres of pure alcohol with a per capita consumption of 19.47 litres per adult (aged 15 years and above)!

28.  Ibid., at p. 2.

29.  This term means a person between the age of eighteen and thirty years as defined under Section 1(g) of The National Youth Council Act, Cap. 319, Laws of Uganda.

30.  Sarah Ssewanyana, op. cit. at p. 13.

31.  John A. Okidi and Gloria K. Mugambe, op. cit. at p. 9.

32.  Human Development Report 2009, op. cit. at pp. 71–83.

33.  Ibid., at pp. 83–92.

34.  Mainly through remittances.

35.  For example, movement can affect gender relations at home. When women move, this can change traditional roles, especially those surrounding the care of children and the elderly. Alternatively, when men migrate, rural women can be empowered by their absence.

36.  Like Specialization, increments in investments and employment and higher innovation rates.

37.  More so where the skills of migrant workers complement those of locally born workers.

38.  Coupled with concentration of ideas, talent and capital leading to positive spillovers.

39.  The question is whether migrants take more than they give or vice versa. Through tax payment, the latter would seem to be the most accurate position. If not, then a win–win situation, at worst.

40.  Sarah Ssewanyana, op. cit. at p. 10.

41.  It is hoped that the 2011/2012 national budget, delivered by the Minister of Finance before Parliament on Wednesday, 8th June, 2011 will go a long way in realizing this goal.

42.  Sarah Ssewanyana, op. cit. at p. 12.

43.  It is argued for instance, that without adequate access to water and energy, human health deteriorates and long periods are spent in non-productive activities like fetching water and collecting firewood. See Marion Mbabazi, Livelihood Assets and Chronic Poverty in Uganda: An Annotated Bibliography, Chronic Poverty Research Centre/Development Research and Training, at p. 4.

44.  This was during an interview with him held at Makerere University, School of Law, on Monday, 06 June, 2011 at 5:00 p.m.

45.  Unfortunately, judging from president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s, State of the Nation Address on Tuesday, 7th June, 2011, delivered before Parliament, it is clear that the battle against corruption in Uganda is still a far away dream! The president defended staunchly corrupt N.R.M. officials like Premier Amama Mbabazi, saying that he “is a long time N.R.M. cadre.” Therefore, it appears that for as long as one is loyal to the regime, they can steal public resources with impunity.

46.              Bakampa Brian Baryaguma, op. cit. at p. 11.

47.              Charles Lwanga-Ntale, op. cit. at p. 4.