paths paved with good intentions


The news on Tuesday morning triggered in my mind the proverb “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

For me, reading news involves flipping through newspapers while keeping watch on my Twitter timeline. On Tuesday I got this repeated sense of confusion over all the good, correct, sensible, viable and positive things being said, read against a backdrop of so little being done about them.

The news is always full of national events and even some private ceremonies at which people with power, influence, authority and audiences say sensible things while doing quite the alternative; and people without that power, influence, authority and audiences listening but not following.

For instance, last week Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, Member of Parliament and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, announced that the use of money in Uganda’s politics must be stopped.

He raised laughter when he said some of his constituents ask him to pay school fees for their children as if he had been present when said constituents were getting pregnant.

“We must end this culture of begging,” Otafiire charged.

Yes, we must! But then, it sounded too familiar and I found that he had said this before – most recently at the start of May, while closing a workshop (hopefully not the type to blame for the culture of begging). #Eish.

Is he going to say it again a few more times before someone creates a law? Should he go to his Member of Parliament to come up with a law? Or perhaps to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs?

While mulling over that, I got to Page 2 of Tuesday’s The New Vision where the President was reported telling dairy farmers not to use the same acaricides for tick control for a period exceeding three years, while taking guests on a farm tour ’to show them especially how to grow fodder and land partitioning’; which further strengthened his arguments for scrapping NAADS because if this is what the President is doing then we really can do without agricultural extension officers and even Ministers of Agricult…eh, wait!

The meeting was attended by the State Minister for Animal Husbandry as well (making one wonder what he was for). But the message made absolute sense, so: next?

During the upcoming census will we gather details of all dairy farmers as well as vets and dealers in veterinary medicines, match them with the phone registration and national ID database, and then create a robust monitoring system to ensure that dairy production is not compromised by stupid practices?

Then on Page 3, ‘National rally driver on the run over smuggling’ tells of how the police has cracked a case involving Ponsiano Lwakataka smuggling fish valued at Ushs300m. A car chase ensued – which could only end one way, Lwakataka being a rally driver, so he escaped arrest.

The hunt continues, but will we ever hear about him again doing anything else but engaging in more car chases, showing up in court and being thrown in prison? Only time will tell, but if he returns as a ’tycoon’ or businessman winning awards, we will have earned the rights to call him fishy.

A page or two later, ‘Uganda needs trade, not aid – Museveni’ wasn’t a new message at all, but one that still has to be delivered, surprisingly, in Uganda.

This time he was telling religious leaders at their summit in Munyonyo on Tuesday, after they reported difficulties in raising funds for the summit due to ‘aid cuts by the West to the Ugandan Christian community for their support of the anti-homosexuality law’.

The leaders (that word again) had to hear from the President the logic that if we engaged in more agricultural production and then competitive trade, we wouldn’t need aid – we would be giving it instead!

Unfortunately, there seems to have been no mention of ideas such as lowering the costs of the summit if funding were difficult… but the religious leaders made a good point in return by calling for an end to impunity and an abuse of public resources.

Logical resultant action? Tighter public spending controls and penalties for corrupt practices, more efficient government fiscal management? A quick review of the budget proposals in light of the so-called aid cuts? Will we see news in coming weeks of Parliamentary Committee meetings discussing this? Will we?

The chances are as slim as our seeing every household in northern Uganda being equipped with a dairy cow.

‘North needs dairy cattle – Onek’, was the story, reporting that Disaster Preparedness Minister Hilary Onek had said that northern Uganda needs massive restocking with dairy cattle to enable the region to produce Hilary Onekenough milk for home consumption as well as for sale in the local and international markets.

“We can start with one heifer per household…” Engineer Hilary Onek said, at the June dairy month celebrations at Pece Stadium in Gulu.

That’s a very good idea, and one we have heard before in variations. He is an engineer, so he has a structured mind and should be able to get this done.

Ironically, the story continues that Onek recalled right there at that event that when he was Agriculture Minister several restocking projects were launched but very few focused on increased milk production.

The fact that he was honest enough to say this is encouraging, but the eyebrows went up and an #eish escaped.

Then he added: “Uganda has the capacity to be the leading producer of milk in the region but we need to help the small-scale farmers with soft loans to enable them acquire inputs such as acaricides…” he added.

The second time in two days that I had encountered this word, without having ever heard it before in my life!

Ignorance aside, the very next para revealed that Animal Husbandry State Minister Bright RwamiramBright Rwamiramaa was ALSO present at this event! And he shared some statistics about milk production, after which the Dairy Development Authority Executive Director, Dr. Jolly Zaribwende, also made a speech saying good things. This was all at the still-listed June Dairy Month Celebrations held in Gulu Municipality.

And the photo accompanying this depicted the officials handing over one in-calf heifer (one) to Gulu Public Primary School.

Focusing on Onek’s superb proposal of one heifer per household, please note that the cost of one heifer, as distributed by the two ministers and the Executive Director, could be equal to the cost of the same officials and their attendant staff driving up to Gulu and spending one night there.

One journal I encountered after reading Onek’s words of wisdom (http://journals.sfu.ca/jmde/index.php/jmde_1/article/viewFile/341/346) stated that “due to Heifer International’s expenditure of US$7million over six years, 8,500 Ugandan facilities are likely to experience income gains exceeding US$8.5million a year on an ongoing basis, and asset gains of about US$17million.”

And it even outlined more benefits of this programme.

Will we therefore see, shortly, the launch of a massive government-led programme to stock each household in northern Uganda with a heifer?

Again, might there be a Parliamentary Committee meeting to consider transferring all money from politics into heifers? Or are the chances as slim as those of our seeing Parliamentary Committee meetings in the near future to discuss the so-called US aid cuts?

Heifer

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