UGANDA: A DAY IN THE CHALLENGING LIFE OF A PEASANT FARMER IN AFRICA

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Isaac Lubangakene imitates digging using an axe

“I have managed to clear three acres of land using hand hoe already singly handedly. I wish government or any other body to help us with at least a pair of oxen plus ox-plough to help us. I find challenge in digging enough to enable me pay my three grandchildren in school”

“Inequality in Africa is fueling poverty, factoring our societies, and stifling the potential of millions of people”

LAMWO-UGANDA: Isaac Lubangakene is hardly two years old, but he is already imitating his mother, Ms. Agnes Lamaro:-digging the land.

It is the rainy season now in most parts of Uganda and farmers are busy opening   land ready to start planting. Farmers use various means including tractors and ox-ploughs depending on status; poor ones like Isaac's parents are still stuck with hand hoes.

When I visit, the child struggles with the as his mother tills the soil together with his sibling 10-year old Aryemo, a Primary four pupil of Ligiligi Primary School in Palabek Gem sub-county in Lamwo district.

Isaac wants to contribute to his family and make life less challenging. Of course the axe is too heavy for him. He is unbothered by my coming close to him with my phone ready to take his picture.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning, local time (about 07.00 GMT) on Thursday, February 15, 2018, at Ayuu Lupur village.
Two couples are weeding my cassava garden in exchange for money. Because they do not have baby-sitters, all of them came with their children.

Aryemo does not go to school on this day because her parents can't afford to buy basic scholastic materials like notebooks and pens, which cost less than a dollar.

Three-year old Daniel Lubangakene is forced to babysit his sibling, Isaac, although a community nursery school, Lok-Yengo, (literally meaning words satisfy) is hardly a kilometer away.

In urban settings, Kevin and Daniel would be in school at this time of the day; but sadly, their parents are illiterate and don’t see the value of education.

The parents of Kevin and Daniel still use antiquated farm tools; hand hoes of the pre-industrial age while others in other developed regions of the world are busy with intensive large scale commercial farming using GPS driven machines for planting crops.

Although the peasants of Ayuu Lupur village in Lamwo own large swaths of fertile land suitable for large scale commercial farming to drive away poverty, they still use hand hoes for tilling the land. Lack of knowledge, capital and modern farming methods has limited their efforts to open up more land.

There are about six peasants in this village who use oxen to open land. They hardly hire out the oxen to others who don’t have. Even when one wants to hire a pair of oxen to open land, they usually cannot afford to pay the fee of hire --about $30 per acre of land. Only one farmer, a retired civil servant, managed to hire a tractor which opened six acres of land on which he planted rice.

By eleven o’clock in the morning local time (8.00 GMT), I decide to go to nearby homes and mobilize them to come to my garden and work. I pay each shs.2500--about $4 dollars for each katala’. A ‘katala’ measures one hundred square meters.

A hard working person can dig up four hundred square meters of land in a day, thereby earning about shs.10,000 (about $12 dollars) in a day. The two couples managed to dig up to eight ‘katala’, and earn a total of shs.20,000, $24 dollars that day.

While the two couples were working, I take time to find out from some youths who are in their early thirties why they have not gone to dig as the two couple. I find one of them, known only as "Joe," relaxing smoking marijuana. When I ask him why he had not gone to dig that morning, his reply shocks me: “I have no hoes”, he says.

According to the treasurer of Ayuu Pugwang clan Association, Ms. Elizabeth Otika, Joe prefers drinking, smoking weed and destroying the now endangered shea nut tree species, which he cuts for burning charcoal.

A day in the life of a peasant farmer in this village

Ms. Elizabeth begins her day at 05.00 o’clock (02.00 GMT) at dawn with prayers to her God since she is a born again woman. She then goes to ding three ‘katala’ up to about noon, after which she returns to rest and eat some left-over food from the previous day.

She returns to continue and digs more ‘katala’ up to six in the evening then she returns home to prepare supper. She goes to bed at ten o’clock in the night.

“I have managed to clear three acres of land using hand hoe already singly handedly. I wish government or any other body to help us with at least a pair of oxen plus ox-plough to help us. I find challenge in digging enough to enable me pay my three grandchildren in school”, says Ms. Elizabeth.

According to Oxfam, African poverty is far worse than thought. The social justice organization details the crisis facing Africa’s poor and issues a challenge to African leaders “to champion new economic models”. There are fifty million more people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 than in 1990.

In South Africa for instance, three billionaires own the same wealth as the poorest half of the population-around 28 million people. “Decades of record growth have benefitted elite but left millions of ordinary Africans behind and as a consequence, poverty has declined more slowly in Africa than in other region”.

250-350 million people could be living in extreme poverty in the next fifteen years.

“Inequality in Africa is fueling poverty, factoring our societies, and stifling the potential of millions of people”, says Ms. Winnie Byanyima, the Ugandan born executive Director of Oxfam, in a report.

My experience on this day reminds me of a hit-song by one of Acholi’s greatest artist, the late Lumix, titled “Anyim leka koyo”, literally meaning I am grieved with fear for the future. The future of the children in Sub-Saharan Africa looks bleak indeed.

 

 

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