President Yoweri Museveni told the people of West Nile to stop being spectators and join the money economy in order to fight poverty and create wealth. He made the appeal on Wednesday while addressing a rally in the West Nile sub-region on wealth creation.
The President, who is on a tour on investment and wealth creation in West Nile under the theme 'Securing your future through wealth creation and shared prosperity', revealed that since 1995, he has been trying to persuade Ugandans to save themselves from poverty.
“We started with Entandiikwa by sending you money, then we went to NAADS, then we involved Gen Saleh with Operation Wealth Creation. Gen. Saleh has had some impact because before him in 2013, the people who were in the money economy were only 32 percent; 68 percent were outside. We called them spectators. Now the number of spectators has reduced, it's now 39 percent out of 100 but even that one is too high. Why should you be a spectator when others are involved in money-making?” he wondered, adding, “We want spectators in sports but we don't want spectators in the economy.”
President Museveni also urged the locals in West Nile to embrace the Parish Development Model (PDM) and explained why the government decided to come up with such a program. “Gen. Saleh had done some work but we started hearing complaints that the soldiers are only sharing among themselves or to their relatives and that they are buying inferior seedlings and that they are overpricing them. So that is why we said, why don't you come in yourselves because in all these programs like Entandiikwa, NAADS, Operation Wealth Creation, it was government officials buying seedlings and distributing them according to the way they decided and they were doing it from far,” he observed.
“That is why we said no, let us change. We said let the people do it themselves; the wealth creators in each parish should organize themselves, elect their leaders so that we send the money to them and they buy the inputs themselves.” The President further cautioned the PDM SACCO leaders not to pressurize beneficiaries to pay back the borrowed money within a period of one year. He said they can start paying back after 24 months.
“They don't have to pay back in one year because they are borrowing mainly for agriculture. When you borrow for agriculture, crops are not always ready in one year. If it is, for instance coffee, it will take over 18 months so there's no harm if this person starts paying back after 24 months and he doesn't have to pay back all of it at ago. He can start paying after 24 months and finish paying after 48 months, with very little interest, I have no problem with that. He pays back not to the government but to your parish SACCO,” he emphasized. Museveni also reminded the people of West Nile that the PDM money is targeted at strategic activities and is meant to get 39 percent of Ugandans out of poverty through calculated commercial agriculture.
“Our money is not for burial or growing marikwang. Ours is to help our people enter into enterprises that have got national, regional and international relevance. When my family starts growing coffee, immediately they are linked to the world economy. Once our families are hooked on that, perpetually they will be making money. We want to secure our future economically,” he said. “If we see the program moving on well, I can convince the MPs to add money, instead of Shs100 million we put Shs200 million. We can also have PDM in the city also. Since you have nowhere to farm, your job is to sell what other people have produced. So, the people in the village produce and you sell or if you are more organized you can process.”
The President also advised the locals to embrace the 4-acre model if they want to get the best out of the PDM funds. “There's also another mistake, the one of fragmenting land when the head of the family dies. This means that in each generation, the family land is becoming smaller and smaller. We are going to have land with a disability because, in some parts of the country, they no longer have one acre per family. In some parts of Ankole they have what they call “Ndunde” (a quarter of an acre). Now those people can no longer grow food for themselves. So, you now have land which cannot grow food for the family, and which cannot earn money for the family. But all this happened because they did not listen to us because we have been talking about this for the last 30 years,” Museveni noted.
"That's why at that time we said 4-acre model; one acre you put coffee, the second acre you put fruits, especially mangos, oranges or pineapples, third acre you put to pasture for zero grazing cows for milk, fourth acre you put food crops and in the backyard you do poultry keeping for eggs and if you are not a Muslim you can also have pigs in the backyard but number seven, if you are near the river you can have fish farming.”
During an interaction session, the locals complained to the President about the high levels of corruption by government officials in Arua. They pointed out the management of Arua Central Market which dubiously took away their stalls and currently, they have nowhere to operate from.
The President assured them that he will deal with the corrupt officials decisively. “We are going to crush any corrupt person in Uganda. The corrupt are playing with fire, we are going to finish them,” he warned.
At the same event, President Museveni handed over customary land titles to 11 people from two districts- Koboko and Maracha. He also extended financial support of Shs120 million to artistes in West Nile to set up a music studio. Ora County Member of Parliament, Lawrence Biyika Songa, applauded the President for starting the process of transforming Uganda by spreading the wealth creation gospel around the country. “The people of West Nile are with you,” Songa assured Museveni.