Socio-Economic Transformation of the Peasantry is Possible

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Early this month President Yoweri Museveni completed his three month  countrywide working tour to mobilize mainly local leaders on socio-economic transformation which entails uplifting rural households by bolstering their food security, production and productivity, wealth creation for income, and entry into commercial enterprises. This tour is among the many that President Museveni has been engaged in with Ugandans over the years against the backdrop of persistent societal resistance to change and adoption to new ways of production among majority of Ugandans. We must transform the village life characterized not just by subsistence but also the retrogressive solidarities, reciprocities and practices.

But society has two kinds of approach. There is the approach which is exclusively about the past, which describes what is dead, and aims to re-create people, issues, and crises in their own terms. In this approach some leaders, including elected ones, appear to have come to the conclusion that peasants cannot be transformed, and should be left alone because every effort is a waste of time and resources. This approach is more approved of, at least by some leaders because being completely impartial seems to be the necessary ideal for a leader’s personal respectability.

The other approach taken by President Museveni is as much about the present and the past, because it takes the controversies of today and tries to understand them with the help of past experience. It is good when leaders are not too frightened to stick their necks out, to give answers to questions that their contemporaries really fear to talk about, and to do more than simply entertain them with anecdotes. Listening to President Museveni, there may be some controversial issues he is raising like stopping family land fragmentation, and telling smallholder farmers to abandon growing cotton, sugarcane and maize, because it isn’t profitable. Without appearing to demean the poor and peasants in Uganda, we may have to revisit the published discourse on the “The Destruction of the Peasants,” which in the 1970s was considered opprobrium. Even in today’s world, the peasantry horizons remain limited and their loyalties are confined mostly to their village. 

While the economy has been growing, expanding, improving and under-going general structural transformation especially since 1986, data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) shows that up to sixty eight percent of Ugandans are still under subsistence livelihood, mainly in agriculture and many cannot afford the basic necessities of life. Those migrate to towns are not any better.

The opposition parties, particularly FDC, and DP have been dismissive of the president’s efforts claiming that the thirty three years he has been at the helm should have been sufficient to transform Uganda into prosperity. They are angry, that this latest mobilization is nothing more that short-changing them with an early re-election campaign.

But the politicking aside, the objective reality is that majority of Ugandans, still live in subsistence economy and need big direct intervention, and government is already doing so much on multiple fronts like in universal education, health, social protection grants, and major infrastructure of roads, electricity and ICT. Nevertheless, local economic entrepreneurship is still weak and consequently the private isn’t providing the requisite broad stimuli for a rapid transformation.

That intervention may be in form of seed capital cash, advise, pep talk, skills development, inputs, work space and equipment, entrepreneurial education and ethics, or general mobilization for mindset shift however small, all of which President Museveni has constantly offered in his engagements.

As an incumbent, President Museveni has a running contract with the people of Uganda based on the NRM’s election manifesto 2016, committing to accomplish a number of tangible development programs for the majority of citizens. Any elected politician and government world over, whatever they do on a daily basis impacts either positively or negatively on their future prospects including re-election if they are still interested and eligible.

And yes, President Museveni is indeed on a massive campaign trail and we should all be joining him to mobilize Ugandans still living below the poverty line or living so precariously and uncertain of tomorrow for themselves and immediate families. There ought to be concerted efforts by each of us especially leaders to mobilize our immediate communities raise productivity, wealth and personal living standards if we are to achieve modernity. It is in our national collective interest to raise Uganda’s productivity, broaden and raise the revenue base to support development and stop looking to foreign fair-weather friends.

It is the promise of NRM and President Museveni to design and implement a broad range of economic packages to lift as many Ugandans as realistically possible, first, out of poverty, and then into productivity, wealth creation and higher standards.  While President’s Museveni’s massage of socio-economic may be taking long to sink, progress is visible across Uganda through increasing homestead incomes, growing number of small, media and large commercial enterprises, services, manufacturing industries, and infrastructure.  And the shares of locally made Ugandan products on shop shelves, and in the export markets, are increasing too. On the whole, for the past two centuries, progress, transformation and modernity have meant giving farewell to the peasantry.