IN case you missed it, there is a food security notice out there giving us tips and guidelines at a personal level that we should pin up onto our walls, fridges, car dashboards and office desks for daily use.
The warnings came as early as April this year, when the IMF (International Monetary Fund) actually wrote: “After an extended period of strong economic growth, many sub-Saharan African countries have been hit by a multiple of shocks—the sharp decline in commodity prices, tighter financing conditions, and a severe drought in southern and eastern Africa. Growth fell in 2015 to its lowest level in some 15 years and is expected to slow further to 3 percent in 2016.”
The IMF advisories are macro-economic, and so a little too high level for non-economists such as myself, but they still make it clear that half a year ago we should have sat up and changed our ways, as the government is advising now at a micro-economic level.
The current government advisory hasn’t yet been given as much air play as it should – and isn’t available EVERYWHERE as it should be. Disappointingly, most of our government websites and notice boards – especially those that are directly responsible for this alert, are sleeping on the job.
But we can’t use that as an excuse NOT to be sensible in the face of potential disaster.
The poor rains (both in quantity and timing) and heavy sunshine since the beginning of this year, followed by prolonged drought last year have led to a massive crop failure in most parts of the country. We are therefore facing a severe food crisis across the entire country.
This is NOT a joke and it is not a lamentation either – it is an alarming FACT. Only 36 districts in Uganda are considered, today, to be “fairly food secure”.
One joker suggested that the solution would be to move to one of those districts till the crisis ends, but that could lead to conflict.
The government advisory, though, is quite clear and is aimed at us – the educated, affluent, employed, reasoning, and so on and so forth.
“Individuals and families are strongly advised to save money by spending much less over the coming festive season and avoid unnecessary feasting,” it reads.
It is awkward that we would need the government to tell us this, but it is a fact that if we didn’t receive word from above it might not come to our attention that we have a role to play in propping up the economy.
The government notice continues with: “NO NEW XMAS CLOTHES, NO BIG XMAS PARTIES, NO NEW HOUSEHOLD MATERIALS (MATRESSES ETC), NO NEW SMART PHONES, LESS DRINKING, etc., etc” (sic).
They even put this in capital letters, just so we read it properly and internalize what we need to do.
“Individuals and families are encouraged to plant leafy vegetables taking (advantage) of the little on-going rains. Vegetables such as cowpea leaves (Gobbe) should be dried and stored.”
You guys, we need to be serious about this.
Instead of buying up ANY foreign or imported stuff, buy local. Instead of spending lavishly on non-productive things, spend on stuff that will produce food or wealth in the news few months. Where you don’t need to spend money, DON’T. When traveling upcountry for Christmas as families, try to fit yourselves into as few cars as possible.
As we sit in our coffee shops and air conditioned offices, luxuriating in plush sofas at home in front of wide high definition flat screen televisions talking about Donald Trump and typing out comments on Facebook and Twitter, please let’s remember that “the total population in need of urgent relief food stands at about 1,300,000 people (the sub-regions of Karamoja, Test, Lango, Acholi, Bukedi, West Nile, parts of Basoga and some districts along the Cattle Corridor).”
Please, let’s spend time and energy being prudent, careful and wise especially during this festive season and food crisis.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have few excuses for NOT being sensible in the face of disaster.