The term poverty is a bit hard to define, depending on the conditions of a country; poverty may be defined in different ways, however considering the conditions in Uganda, the ideal definition by the Copenhagen Declaration described poverty “…a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health shelter, education and information” is an appropriate definition for poverty in Uganda.
The 2001 Mundi Index estimates indicate that 35% of Ugandans live below the poverty line. Uganda has transformed from a failed state in the late 1980′s to a fast growing economy in the past 20 years. Since 2005, economic growth in Uganda has averaged 7.2% every year and inward investment has doubled. More growth is expected with the revenue expected from the Oil resource still under exploration.
The economic growth in the country has however not manifested itself averagely to all the citizens, income inequality is still evident.Activists in the country continue to demand for equality in the sharing of the national resources especially in terms of the allocation of salaries.Strikes among teachers and doctors have been common in the recent years with a demand in salary increment.
Poverty in Uganda has been described as chronic .Most approaches to deal with poverty have not been efficient. With numerous measures in place to deal with the scourge, poverty levels have not reduced in line with the government’s expectations .The conditions of the poor continue to worsen with the high inflation, high cost of fuel and rising food prices. Just like the saying an angry man is a hungry one; the dissatisfaction has continuously been manifested in protest across the country.
The HIV scourge has increased the poverty levels in Uganda with many victims and the government spending a considerable amount of the national budget on treatment and care for HIV victims.
Corruption is high in Uganda; the government loses a lot of public resources to a few corrupt government officials. Some of this money is one aimed at fighting poverty in the country through different projects. With too much corruption in the country, most donor countries have even threatened to cut off the aid they extend to the country, a situation that is feared might worsen poverty levels in the country.
Some of the Strategies to fight poverty in Uganda
Modernization and development of agriculture
80 percent of Uganda’s 31 million populace are involved in agricultural activities. Thus the government through programs like the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) .The NAADS program was put in place to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of agricultural extension service.
It is a semi-autonomous body formed under NAADS Act of June 2001 with a mandate to develop a demand driven, farmer-led agricultural service delivery system targeting the poor subsistence farmers, with emphasis to women, youth and people with disabilities.
Its development goal is to enhance rural livelihoods by increasing agricultural productivity and profitability in a sustainable way. NAADS works in pursuit of the national development framework of Poverty Eradication Agenda, which is guided by the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP).
NAADS overall supervision is vested in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). The programme was officially launched in March 2002.It is one of the seven components under the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture.
The programs have uplifted the conditions of living for some farmers though the high cost of living in the country has continued to lower the profits most farmers get from agriculture.
The Employment program
According to statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) all universities and other institutions of learning produce over 400,000 job seekers, of whom only 80,000 manage to find employment in the formal sector, which includes government and the private sector. The remaining percentage remains on the streets searching for jobs on streets and remain a burden to their parents and the few employed relatives.
According to the Africa Development Indicators, 83% of the youth between the age of 15 and 24 are unemployed. Uganda’s population also has the highest dependency ratio in Africa — registered at 1:1. (Dependency ratio is the ratio of people younger than 15 or older than 64 to the working age population).
The government has embarked on putting in place programs that can put an end to unemployment in the country. NYC Entrepreneurship Program was a government initiative to fight poverty and time for young people to fight poverty and unemployment through forming groups.The program is intended to help the youth of Uganda gain skills and become successful entrepreneurs.
Government has projects aimed at skills development. Projects like Promotion of Children and Youth (PCY) in the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) are in place as a remedy for unemployment and consequently fight poverty.
The Basic Education for Urban Poor Areas (BEUPA) is implemented in Kampala and targets slum dwellers and other disadvantaged children in the urban and semi-urban areas. The curriculum focuses on practical employable skills as well as basic literacy.
All these projects have not helped a considerable proportion of the unemployed in the country; many Ugandans especially the youth remain unemployed.
Poverty eradication through the education program
Since education opens new horizons, extends freedom and creates opportunities. The Ugandan Government hopes that by raising literacy levels in the country, it will increase production, distribution, economic growth. In January 1997, Universal Primary Education was introduced in Uganda as one of the Government of Uganda’s main policy tools for achieving poverty reduction and human development.
With the free primary education program the government of Uganda aims at providing facilities and resources to enable every child to enter and remain in school until the primary cycle of education is complete.
Universal Secondary Education (USE) was introduced in 2007 to follow Universal Primary Education and eliminates tuition fees for students in Senior 1 through Senior 4 in participating schools. The implementation of free vocational training is also under way as a way of eradicating poverty in Uganda.
Critics and observers of the free education program in Uganda argue that the government should first improve the quality of UPE and USE before it can take on free vocational training in the country. Many USE schools across the country still lack enough teachers; some schools need expansion to reduce on congestion in class rooms on top of that the housing facilities and salaries of teachers is still poor.