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Sugarcane growing is not Busoga’s major problem as Bobi Wine claims

By Faruk Kirunda

Banange Busoga yalaba! Anybody who wants to criticise or mock turns to Busoga, yet Busoga is a blessed land and the Basoga are a proud resourceful people contributing a lot to Uganda, and equally benefitting. The latest person to use Busoga as a rug is none other than presidential candidate, Kyagulanyi Sentamu Robert (Bobi Wine). While on his campaign trail in the sub-region, Bobi Wine said that the problem of Busoga is sugarcane growing.

That claim has been raised from many circles before and no longer holds sway when it comes to weighing Busoga’s options and standing on the national economic scale. Sugarcane growing was a problem as a sole or major agricultural activity in the past but government has been systematically redirecting economic activities in the sub-region while streamlining the sugar industry at the same time. Sugar business is not bad economics when there is a kibaro (calculation); small holder farmers cannot earn much when they plant their meager land with sugarcane.

It is large scale farmers (companies) that benefit due to the economically viable acreage and systems they have in place to manage the crop and all the processes involved in turning it into the high value commodity (sugar) that make real money. These ones must be encouraged and protected while the small holder farmers have been attended to in other ways including being supporters to engage in alternative ventures-not limited to agriculture. The turnaround in the sector may not happen in one day but the economics of sugarcane growing is understood by every Musoga. It is nolonger a problem to cause for alarm. The NRM government diagnosed that problem and found medicine for it.

For farmers still interested in remaining in the sugarcane business, a special buffer fund to cushion them as they wait for their crop to reach full maturity is underway. Prices of fertilizers (and other inputs) are being suppressed for affordability. They also need to advance their farming with more tractors for tilling land, ferrying cane and other utilities on a shamba. Research conducted for government revealed that 60% of the farmers were making losses at the time of harvesting when they depended on unreliable private transporters who at times did not turn up to ferry the crop leaving it to wither in the gardens yet there was ready market and the roads are motorable.
It was also realised that farmers needed a strong lobby to bargain for better prices in the market. The relationship with big millers depended on how strongly leaders backed the farmers. Smallholder farmers can get good prices for their produce, on top of being organized towards a goal of establishing their own mills. This is where the idea of zoning came (whereby producers or millers in a given territory are accorded space autonomy of a radius of 25kilometers exclusive to them free from competition). So, really, sugar business is sweet for Busoga if all the transformatory ideas surrounding it are implemented and that is an ongoing process.

Other areas have developed rapidly on account of sugarcane growing, processing and marketing; how can Busoga be an exception? Even Acholi excited because of the coming of Atiak sugar. The problem is not sugarcane growing; there are other factors affecting Busoga’s faster development.

Busoga has a number of influential figures serving in government. But these prominent sons and daughters of Busoga have not been well used as a conduit for development. Instead, they are victims of endless, baseless and headless intrigue and the infamous Pull Him/Her Down (PHD) syndrome. Among eminent personalities from Busoga are the Kyabazinga who is also an Ambassador, Speaker of Parliament and 2nd Vice Chairperson, NRM; Secretary General NRM, 2nd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Without Portfolio, Executive Director of National Planning Authority (NPA), deputy IGG-for a long time, the full IGG was from Busoga. President Museveni’s ADC, Namulondo Rebecca is also from Busoga. Busoga also had a long serving Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Prof. Muzaale. This list is not exhaustive as there are ministers, MPs, and bosses in other respective areas all hailing from Busoga. I also feature among them. But best of all, Busoga is rich because it has people and a favourable climate endowed with natural wonders like the Source of the Nile.
Despite having many heavyweights in government, Busoga has not achieved its full potential because people do not respect protocol; there is no native unifier. Even when President Museveni provides vital guidance for the greater good, he is not listened to yet he is the greatest guarantor Busoga will ever have due to his liberation struggle attachment he has with the area.

A complementary factor is the habit of changing leaders like handkerchiefs. Elected leaders are disrupted when they are beginning to master leadership and are in the process of transferring benefits to the people (not forgetting that the few long serving are undermined and fought). I am waiting to see how next year’s elections will play out to see our people;s priorities. Elections should not be used to set us back in time but to renew leadership with a new sense of direction and commitment .

Busoga had the first woman vice president in the whole of Africa. But how did she end? She was pulled down by her own kinsmen. Were it not for President Museveni placing value in the female gender and standing by them, she would have been totally disgraced. The majority of elected leaders are used and discarded without a plan.
Just like Uganda has had stable leadership under President Museveni, Busoga needs stable leadership to take on its challenges head-on without fear of leaving unfinished business.

Just to be very clear; Busoga cannot develop, neither has it failed to develop, by relying on sugarcane alone. The sector will continue to be developed but the Basoga must diversify into other economic activities by making use of government programmes like Emyooga and taking advantage of the over 250factories (in Jinja and Njeru alone) to uplift their livelihoods.

Looking at sugarcane as the only line of survival is as misguided as attributing Busoga’s problems to the crop. It is a narrow perspective!

The author is a Private Secretary to H.E the President in Charge of Media Management
Contact: kirundaf2@yahoo.com
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