No longer designate, and with a full mandate since her approval by Parliament, no doubt, the Prime Minister Rtn. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah and her team are doing their very best to do better than her predecessor in handling of covid-19 lock down relief packages to ‘needy Ugandans’. Unlike her predecessor, Rtn. Hon. Nabbanja’s team has opted to dole out cash via mobile money payments rather than to distribute food aid.
The Prime Minister’s change in strategy seems a knee jerk reaction to challenges her predecessor faced with receiving, distributing and accounting for food aid. Plenty allegations of corruption and mismanagement by the Office of the Prime Minister then, to the extent, some speculate, cost Rtn. Hon. Nabbanja’s predecessor his job.
The targeted beneficiaries, however, in both cycles of covid-19 lock down induced relief aid are the same – Uganda’s urban dwellers.
And therein is the deception. This is because, whatever covid-19 lock down relief aid, food or cash, is simply a band-aid over a gaping smelly wound of systemic flawed policy and failure to manage Uganda’s livelihoods and food security matters by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Administration.
Take for instance, policies that directly or indirectly overly commercialize food. Those policies, for example, that encourage and force farmers to grow to sell, then buy to eat; creating an undesirable status quo of Ugandan farmers now mostly being net buyers of food – they spend more to purchase food than they receive in sales of food that they produce over a given period.
Effectively, making a significant proportion of our farmers to become no different from urban slum dwellers whose economic access to food is weak. And yet, like her predecessor, the Rtn. Hon. Nabbanja’s cash aid package focuses on urban slum dwellers, while it is blind to rural dwellers whose villages have experienced extensive ‘urban-slumitisation‘ as a direct consequence of flawed NRM policies.
Flawed policy and mismanagement are the real reason that large sections of our population in the rural areas experience transitory food insecurity, mostly in-between harvests. Periods in which they have insufficient access to food, mostly due to the fact that they cannot afford to buy back the food that they sold and which is now being sold back to them at exorbitantly high prices.
Popular discourse on the covid-19 pandemic, sadly, is blind to the fact that systemic policy failure has transformed a significant proportion of households in rural areas into net buyers of food that similar to the urban poor often experience entitlement failure – times when their ability to access food through buying is diminished; and yet they are net buyers of food and no longer subsistence farmers.
There is also a thesis, moreover, that the previous method of government buying food from farmers and distributing it as relief aid, perhaps, in fact did benefit rural dwellers who were most likely the suppliers. Let us wait and see.