Uganda has made enormous progress in reducing poverty, slashing the countrywide incidence from 56 per cent of the population in 1992 to 31 per cent in 2005. And, at 12 per cent, the reduction of poverty in urban areas has been even more marked. Notwithstanding these gains, however, poverty remains firmly entrenched in the country’s rural areas, home to more than 85 per cent of Ugandans. About 40 per cent of all rural people – some 10 million men, women and children – still live in abject poverty.
In order to understanding the challenges faced by rural small farmers in North Uganda, it is important to give a brief overview of the situation of rural poverty in Uganda in general.
In remote rural areas, smallholder farmers do not have access to the vehicles and roads they need to transport their produce to markets, and market linkages are weak or non-existent. Farmers lack inputs and technology to help them increase their production and reduce pests and disease. And they lack access to financial services that would enable them to boost their incomes both by improving and expanding their production and by establishing small enterprises.
Although the country has been able to dramatically reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS among the population, the pandemic has caused the death of large numbers of young adults and orphaned approximately 1 million children. The lack of health care and other social services puts rural women at a particular disadvantage. They work far longer hours than men, have limited access to resources and control over what they produce, and, among their many other tasks, they bear the double burden of ensuring their households are fed adequately and caring for the sick and elderly and for orphaned children.
The poorest regions are the north and north-east of the country, where 20 years of conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels of civil strife have disrupted small farmers’ lives and agricultural production.
Even if for nearly five years now the people enjoyed peace and security and they have returned home from camps, there are still challenges such as lack of the basics of human life like good shelter, enough food, health care availability and access, clothing, water among others which manifest higher level of poverty in the communities of north part of the Country.
Aside from challenges related to resettlement and reintegration in their communities, it is important to highlight the key role played by the ongoing “Healing and Reconciliation Process”. During the years of conflicts, local populations have not only been terrorized but children were abducted, women raped, parents killed in front of their children, communities were disrupted. Any action to rebuilding the communities will have to be based on rebuilding the trust among the communities through strengthening the Healing and Reconciliation Process.