About two weeks ago, a New Vision story headline, “Museveni backs Sh200b job creation programme,” caught my attention. A headline that excites, but, in the context of Uganda, is also truly Machiavellian. Let me explain, using one of the job creation programmes included in that story, the “Green Jobs Programme,” which was described as:
“The Government’s strategic plan to create jobs, by reducing negative environmental impacts and promoting safety and health at work. This will ultimately lead to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable enterprises and economies.”Nicholas Wassajja in the New Vision
What sector is better in “green jobs” than agriculture?
I am reminded of my 2016 empirical investigation into agriculture in Uganda, during which I learnt from a Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) presentation that MAAIF delivered at the Joint Agriculture Sector Annual Review (JASAR) 2016, revealing that, at the time, a whopping 258 jobs at MAAIF were vacant, because of insufficient funding; and, for the same reason, that only 50 percent of agriculture related jobs at the district local governments’ level were filled.
But then again, what is Uganda’s operational definition of “employed” or “a job?”
Among those considered “employed” in Uganda, for example, are low paid, food and nutrition insecure government employees; and who are often poorly facilitated to the extent unable to do the job.
And, comparatively, smallholder rural farmers, such as my aunt, who is food and nutrition self-reliant, because she produces food for own consumption and surplus for sale is considered jobless.
Uganda’s problematic definition of “employed” or of “a job” is, in fact, the root cause of our problems. It is the reason that ‘politicking programmes’, such as the “green jobs programme”, premised on questionable logic, are originated and are easily used for propaganda, to make it seem as though the state is doing good by its citizens.
Sincerely, really, all those agriculture related jobs not filled in 2016, have they been filled in 2020? I doubt it. It is highly likely that the 2016 situation of unfilled jobs in the agriculture sector, due to insufficient funding, still prevails in 2020. How logical is it then, for one to be with jobs unfilled and at the same time focus on creating new jobs?
Questionable logic, indeed, which ignores the needs of hardworking smallholder farmers who are feeding our nation. They don’t want jobs and dehumanizing patronage, they are productively employed feeding our nation. They simply need government to play its role and to create an enabling environment for them. For example, accessible good extension services.
“With the onset of COVID-19, our banana plantation manager was taken ill. The plantation wasn’t well attended to, due to the lockdown, and poor supervision. A weird disease set in and this has destroyed more than half of the plantation; a big loss! Surely, Uganda needs more agriculture extension workers.Victor Oling in “COVID-19 and agriculture: lessons from a Uganda woman farming as a business.
Sadly, moreover, seemingly, not only are there plenty of jobs within the agriculture sector currently unoccupied, but even the ones occupied are not being done well. Why are a significant number of agricultural related jobs, such agricultural extension provision, now occupied by soldiers, under the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) programme? Are solders, with very little training in agricultural practice, the best suited to do that job? Many disagree.
Despite, increasing dilapidated and, in some cases, defunct agricultural research institutions, there is a sufficient flow of Ugandans completing training in agriculture related fields. In 2016, according to MAAIF’s JASAR presentation, students graduating from its Fisheries Training Institute had increased by over 18 percent; and from its Bukalasa Agricultural College by over 35 percent – great resources to fill unfilled agricultural “green jobs.”