Passively betting the farm

I have borrowed “betting the farm” from The Guardian Weekly of 26th November 2021, Vol. 205 No.23 – the title of a short news item on Indian farmers’ protests against legislation that would have “rolled back farm subsidies and price regulation on crops.” It was interesting to learn that Indian farmers are still given subsidies and that the Indian government still regulates crop prices. Presumably, this is in order to ensure that 60 percent of its workforce that is employed in the agriculture sector have decent livelihoods.

Farmers in Europe and North America, as well, matter of fact, receive similar support from their respective governments. And yet, in Uganda, where, according to the most recent Uganda National Household Survey, 72 percent of households earn a living from agriculture, the mention of government subsidies and price regulation is frowned upon. Why is that? The disdain for Uganda government provisioning agricultural subsidies and price regulation, moreover, is mostly propagated by the enforcers of the myth of free market neo-liberal economic practice, including European and North American expatriates; and their ‘educated’ Ugandan collaborators.

Just wondering, what will it take for farmers in Uganda to stop being docile and passive towards legislation and government actions that put their livelihoods and their smallholder farms at risk? Indian farmers, through well organised sustained protests, were successful in getting their Parliament to repeal legislation that was passed without them being consulted and which:

“Put their livelihoods and farms at risk and gave private corporations control over the pricing of their crops, which could crush smallholder farmers.”

Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters @ The Guardian Weekly

What will it take so that Ugandan farmers can proactively object to legislation that is passed without sufficient consultation with them – you know, like that coffee deal.

“This is a struggle between the comprador bourgeoisie, the agents of foreign interests, and the local bourgeoisie.” 

President Museveni on push back on Vinci Coffee Deal @ The Independent

The President would have us believe that the Vinci Coffee Deal is in the interest of our coffee smallholder farmers. Really, how so? A question that the 11th parliament is seemingly attempting to answer retrogressive, if at all; and after the deal was already made. Obviously, the deal was made without consultation of smallholder farmers, who are the producers of Uganda’s coffee.

That coffee farmers and farmers as a whole, the majority of Uganda’s population, are not on the streets protesting legislation that takes away from them, speaks volumes about the insufficient understanding among Ugandans of democratic governance and the obligation of duty bearers to listen to the electorate and not be dismissive of rights holders.

And that is why it is important to remind the Right Honourable Speaker, that the universal and objective means of verification for evaluating the performance of members of parliament (MPs), in all their roles of representation, oversight, appropriation and legislation, is first the quality of their participation in plenary debates, during which legislation and other decisions of parliament are passed, and as it is documented in the hansard.

The second is the legislation and other policies as approved by Parliament; and which are made during the Plenary. A method, therefore, that uses the hansard to evaluate the performance of MPs isn’t at all defective and it should not be dismissed. Having no record in the hansard of an MP speaking during plenary let alone 64 MPs reportedly not speaking in plenary for a 12 month period should be an issue of great concern; for it is is a good indicator of MPs abdicated and not performing their roles.

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