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OWC moves to prioritise the private sector in Northern Uganda

(Last Updated On: 11 July 2023)

What you need to know:

  • Born Caleb Akandwanaho, Gen. Salim Saleh, the National Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) last month (June) met Northern Uganda leaders from 32 districts. Those who met him include RCCs, RDCs, GISOs, RISOs, and LC5 chairpersons, Members of Parliament, among other technocrats.
  • The meeting was held at Gulu University Library in Gulu City and was focused on, among others involving the private sector on board to bridge the missing gaps regarding production in the region.
  • The meeting also looked at strategies to enhance production and productivity among the three sub-regions (Acholi, Lango and West Nile).

Gulu, July 11, 2023: During the three-day engagement in June, Gen. Salim Saleh tasked leaders of northern Uganda to explain why most government projects, interventions and initiatives aimed at eliminating poverty have certainly not yielded any fruit yet.

Saleh said, “chunks of funds” (approximately shs4 trillion) were disbursed by the government to the region.

Saleh said Northern Uganda still has abundant land which is the major factor of production, but says the population still live in “subjected poverty” rather than being on the top with the abundant fertile land for agriculture.

The retired army general challenged some cultural leaders who are saying the government wants to grab people’s land to encourage their subjects to use land efficiently for production to improve their social and economic transformation and to eliminate the level of poverty.

He implored the leaders to also design the methodologies for ending poverty, guiding all the districts to map all the total land capacities, including titled and non-title land, the land tenure system and ownership.

OWC reminded them that he wants private sector players to be prioritized and take the lead in government projects to increase the level of production in northern Uganda.

Further, Saleh also requested all the technocrats to file the status of storage facilities and agro-processing machines such as rice and maize mills which were procured by the government and installed in the various cooperatives in the region for value addition, warning beneficiaries not to mismanage such facilities.

State minister for Northern Uganda, Gace Freedom Kwiyucwiny commented that the region has over 2,500 households with 32 districts including cities, but no proper industry across to boost production.

She said “no proper industry” is contributing to low production in the region, adding that the government needs to improve on the gaps.

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Kwiyucwiny noted that farmers have abundant land but keep growing traditional crops like millet, peas, and cassavas, among others.

“How can the private sector come into production yet we are lacking industry? However, with the available logistics hub in Gulu City, we are just making shows to our local farmers and in the end, we remain the poorest in the region.

“We have to find out the level of agro-processing machines, enterprising capacity, and capacity of our household; processing and storage capacity then after the private sector be involved to promote production,” Minister Kwiyucwiny said.

The Acholi Parliamentary Group chairperson also the Kilak North MP, Anthony Akol said private sectors are business-oriented and only work to make profits. “What unique thing will they bring to help our local farmers?” he asked, commenting, “We need to change the mindset of local farmers and deal with cooperative societies to promote production.”

“Government is not introducing crops that the community of northern Uganda wants, we are doing things just for our interest, not in the public interest. During the State of Nation Address, the President talked about crops like coffee, tea and poultry, dairy farming, meat, and fish, among others. How can the mentioned crops be of help to our local people deep in Amuru, Omoro Kitgum, Pader and Agago to sustain the production input,” said Akol.

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Fish farmers in Amuru digging a pond. Photo by Okot Lil Romeo.

He advised the government that before private sectors come into production, there must be a strong agency to monitor extension workers to understand and disseminate knowledge to local farmers. “And then our stores will be full of what we want. If not, then the private sector will preamble things which do not make quality, we will fail.”

The Kilak North MP has advised people in the Acholi sub-region to continue growing traditional food crops. “Have chicken, goats and cattle to fight poverty, not waiting for long-term farming which needs a lot of capital.”

RDC of Gulu, Charles Ichogoro said the government is preaching for peace because northern Uganda passed through war for over 25 years.

Ichogoro said “key mathematics” is needed to develop strategies for making the private sector bridge production gaps in northern Uganda.

“Private sectors are the heart of social economic transformation and Operation Wealth Creation this would fight poverty in northern Uganda,” he added.

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Robert Achac Okok is the chairperson of NUTOFA SACCO LTD. He said that the private sector for many years has not been involved to participate in any agricultural projects under NUSAF I, II and III, including PDM.

Achac further criticized researchers whose work, he said “is narrow and does not meet the facts and solution of the production”. “They (researchers) did not involve private sectors to understand their research study.”

Isaac Todoko, the chairperson of Koboko DFA said the government through the office of OWC should connect PDM project pillars one and three to improve production.

Todoko urged that lack of trust, poor policy making and poor coordination between local and central governments are contributing to poverty in the north.

He said partnerships with development partners and the private sector would yield fruits of production by linking investors, partners and local people who are willing to grow to generate bankable projects and access capital.

John Bosco Odongo, the chairperson of private sectors under NURDF said they are going to use the available natural resources and make use of six factors of production land, labour, capital, time, and entrepreneur to fight poverty in northern Uganda.

Odongo pledged to make sure the region moves to the next level, aligned with government programmes like PDM, NUSAF 1, 2 and 3.

“We want to take a different approach of doing things and analyzing things to make bankable projects for the local farmers. In developed countries, they are working with private sectors to build the capacity of production. Uganda needs to adopt and promote it,” he wished.

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