I recall reading a piece in which a non-Ugandan shared with glee that one of the major reasons she liked living in Uganda was because she could go to the market with the equivalent of ten dollars or less and be able to buy fresh food items, including loads of fruit and vegetables, that could feed her and her family for over a week.
Indeed, yesterday, for only twenty thousand shillings (about five dollars), from Kitoro Market, I was able to buy six tomatoes, five onions, cauliflower, lettuce, a cluster of sweet bananas, two apples, two mangoes, and two cucumbers. And this got me thinking, if this is what I have paid for these premium fruits and vegetables, how much then was the farm-gate price?
Please appreciate also that in Uganda we don’t have a minimum wage. Employers pay however and whatever they like and so the majority of Ugandans are low paid wage/salary earners. in comparison to the true cost of living in Uganda, that is. It is hard sometimes to tell who is the worse off, the fresh fruit and vegetable farmer or the low paid employed.
From what I heard of what went down at the official Labour Day Celebrations on May Ist, these are not the issues that formed centre stage nor are they the issues trending from the celebrations. Instead, for the last couple of days, “muwogo” or “cassava” is trending on social media for Uganda.
“If there is no bread eat muwogo (cassava). Africans really confuse themselves. If you’re complaining that there’s no bread or wheat, please eat muwogo. I don’t eat bread myself.”President Museveni is quoted as having said.
Sadly, President Museveni has horned his expertise in generating such red herring diversions for the enjoyment and entertainment of many. In reality, such diversions are costly for us as a nation and are in fact the basis for the terrible viscous cycles that impoverish us – not holding duty bearers to account.
We urgently need to interrogate and address the root cause of why Ugandans find President Museveni funny in this context, when, in fact, his “muwogo” comments are similar to those that generated major discontent among masses elsewhere in the world. His comment is no less insensitive and offensive as was “let them eat cake” to peasants who couldn’t afford bread; as was “why don’t they eat porridge and ground (minced) meat” asked of people who were starving for they could afford rice.
4 responses to “What should have been discussed on Labour Day”
Noted – but first wait. How much cassava can one get for the same amount of money one would spend on a loaf of bread? The comment would have grated much more if someone said: “If you can’t afford cassava, eat bread…”. The main points some people took away revolved around three: a) import substitution – cassava for bread (including cassava flour products, that are also feasible) and our growing our own wheat b) nutritional value from already existing food products and values c) using our scarce resources in a more sustainable manner while growing our local economy by spending more money for the benefit of our farmers rather than wheat farmers in Europe, for instance. 🙂
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And still I maintain that the topic should have focused on the price of labour. Farm-gate prices that impoverish the farmer who is then told to eat what he is already eating because it is the cheapest available food.
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The price of labour is certainly a crucial point to address – I have no qualms about that. If the farmer has already been eating cassava because it is the cheapest food available, then she or he was not the target of that message – I’d think it was the ‘middle class’ that was clamouring about the price of bread. And it’s that group of people who I’d personally point my interpretation of the ‘eat cassava instead’ message towards, while still supporting the additional ones. Now, to increase the price of labour or the value of labour, perhaps we should increase the demand for cassava by making it mainstream and also increasing the value the raw product can be put to (leaves, stems, roots and all). 🙂
And there in is the concern about being detached. The majority of Ugandans, not only farmers, eat cassava. Moreover for some it is a staple food.
So what was the point of the address to the nation. That we are less concerned about the majority and only get concerned when the minority, the fake middle class, are affected?
See how a wheat based product, Rolex, has a national day and our unique indigenous foods that feed are nation don’t.
The comment was insensitive and it reminds us, the majority, of how so out of touch those holding public office are. And it hurts because our fake middle class amass wealth primarly through unsavoury ways, it is believed.